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Intellectual Property: Federal Enforcement Has Generally Increased, but Assessing Performance Could Strengthen Law Enforcement Efforts.

GAO-08-157 March 11, 2008

Federal law enforcement actions against criminals who manufacture and distribute counterfeit and pirated goods are important to enforcing intellectual property (IP) rights and protecting Americans from unsafe or substandard products. GAO was asked to: (1) examine key federal agencies' roles, priorities, and resources devoted to IP-related enforcement; (2) evaluate agencies' IP-related enforcement statistics and achievements; and (3) examine the status of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. GAO reviewed relevant documents, interviewed officials in five key agencies, and analyzed agency IP enforcement data from fiscal years 2001 through 2006.

Five key agencies play a role in IP enforcement, and their enforcement functions include seizures, investigations, and prosecutions. While IP enforcement is generally not their highest priority, IP crimes with a public health and safety risk, such as production of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, is an IP enforcement priority at each agency. Determining agencies' IP enforcement resources is challenging because few staff are dedicated to this area, and not all agencies track staff time spent on IP enforcement. Agencies carry out some enforcement actions through their headquarters, but significant enforcement takes place in the field. Federal enforcement actions generally increased during fiscal years 2001-2006, but the key agencies have not taken key steps to assess their achievements. For example, most have not systematically analyzed their IP enforcement statistics to inform management and resource allocation decisions, collected data on their efforts to address IP crimes that affect public health and safety, or established IP-related performance measures or targets to assess their achievements. Also, Customs and Border Protection's enforcement of exclusion orders, which stop certain IP-infringing goods from entering the country, has been limited due to certain procedural weaknesses. The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, an interagency mechanism created to coordinate federal investigative efforts, has not achieved its mission and staff levels have decreased. Currently, only one agency participates in the center's activities, which focus on private sector outreach. Agencies have lacked a common understanding of the center's purpose and agencies' roles. The center's upcoming move to a new location presents an opportunity to reconsider its mission.

Categories: Government Operations, Agency missions, Allocation (Government accounting), Consumer protection, Crime prevention, Crimes, Criminal investigation, Data collection, Intellectual property, Interagency relations, Investigations by federal agencies, Law enforcement, Law enforcement agencies, Performance measures, Product evaluation, Program evaluation, Program management, Public health, Regulatory agencies, Risk assessment, Risk management, Safety standards, Search and seizure, Statistical data
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:May 1, 2008
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