By Erin Geiger Smith
NEW YORK, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Intellectual property
enforcement is one of the top priorities of the U.S. Justice
Department, a top cybercrime prosecutor said at a legal
conference on Friday.
However, stopping the import of counterfeit goods and the
illegitimate websites that sell them "is not an area we can
prosecute our way out of," said Andrea Sharrin, the deputy chief
of the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual
Sharrin and other government officials and practitioners
spoke at an Intellectual Property Enforcement and Litigation
conference in New York hosted by the Practising Law Institute.
It is critical, Sharrin said, to have an ongoing dialogue
with the owners of patents, trademarks or copyrights, and to
raise public awareness about the consequences of intellectual
When the Justice Department prosecutes intellectual
property-related crime, cases involving health and safety - such
as counterfeit medication - are among the top priorities, she
Other priority areas are trade secrets and economic
espionage, organized criminal enterprises, as well as
large-scale piracy and counterfeiting, particularly online,
The speakers also discussed new data on the global trade in
More than $1.2 billion worth of counterfeit goods were
seized by the United States in the 2012 fiscal year, and more
than 80 percent of that merchandise originated from mainland
China and Hong Kong, according to U.S. government data released
Of the goods seized, apparel accounted for the largest
number of items, 29 percent, followed by media items such as
DVDs and CDs, handbags and wallets, and pharmaceuticals, noted
Mark Witzal, deputy director for the National Intellectual
Property Coordination Center, which coordinates the U.S.
response to global intellectual property theft.
The numbers represent seizures made by the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Counterfeit goods do not just include knock-offs of
brand-name clothing or movies, Witzal said.
He showed a video of government tests on counterfeit airbags
that had been confiscated. The airbags exploded and caught fire,
rather than deploying properly.
Witzal also cited a government project that targeted sites
selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The government seized more
than 686 domain names in that project, all from a coordinated
network, he said.
Brian Brokate, an attorney at Gibney Anthony & Flaherty,
said disabling websites selling counterfeit products is often
the highest priority for companies looking to protect the
integrity of their brand names.
In October, a Florida federal judge granted Chanel Inc's
request that control of domain names, including
chanelbagsforsale-us.com, be transferred to Chanel.
The company did not even request monetary damages in that
case, Brokate said, because monetary damages would be difficult
to actually recover and the company's priority was to keep the
websites from selling fake goods.
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