U.S. Attorney General Gonzales Says IP Theft Convictions Jumped 57% Last Year
The administration has proposed a bill that would make attempts to infringe on copyright a crime, and would increase the maximum penalty for counterfeiting offenses from 10 years to 20 years in some cases.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wants Congress to strengthen laws on copyright infringement and other IP violations.
Gonzales announced the U.S. Department of Justice's proposed Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007," while speaking Monday before for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy. He also outlined progress in fighting intellectual property theft.
Gonzales said his department in 2006 convicted 57% more defendants for criminal copyright and trademark offenses than in the previous year. He also said the number of defendants receiving prison terms of more than two years increased by 130%.
"Increased enforcement, across the government, and stiffer sentences send an important message to these counterfeiters and pirates that we take their crimes seriously, and we will punish their actions," he said during the speech. "These are complicated cases, and we need a strong nationwide network to bring good cases and to win them."
Gonzales said that 230 federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been specially trained to handle IP investigations. He said the government is reaching out to industry for help, while trying to strengthen intellectual property protection laws.
The bill he announced would categorize attempts to infringe on copyright as a crime. It would increase the maximum penalty for counterfeiting offenses from 10 years to 20 years imprisonment if the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury, and increase the maximum penalty to life imprisonment where the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause death. Gonzales mentioned cases in which doctors or hospitals could end up with counterfeit tools.
It would also increase penalties for repeat offenders of the copyright laws, enable forfeiture of property obtained through intellectual property theft, and increase restitution for criminal copyright right violations. It would also make the export and shipment of copyright-infringing goods a crime.
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