White House appoints IP Enforcement Coordinator

On September 25, 2009, President Obama appointed Victoria A. Espinel as IP Enforcement Coordinator (“IPEC”). This position was mandated by the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (“PRO-IP Act”) S. 3325, Public Law No. 110-403, signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 13, 2008. See Current Status of the House Bill and of the Senate Bill.

The Act governs enforcement of IP infringement matters, particularly counterfeiting of copyrighted works and trademarks. With respect to trademarks, the Act increases civil penalties for trademark counterfeiting, including for direct as well as for certain types of contributory infringement and enhances criminal penalties for trafficking in counterfeit goods bearing others’ trademarks.

The IPEC is a cabinet-level position in the Executive Office focused on combating counterfeiting and IP infringement.

Under the Act, the IPEC will be an advisor only, not a prosecutor or other law enforcement officer. Specifically, the IPEC is charged with chairing an “interagency intellectual property enforcement advisory committee”, coordinating a Joint Strategic Plan (defined with more specificity in the Act) against counterfeiting and infringement, assist (when requested) in the implementation of the Plan, facilitate the issuance of policy guidance on “basic issues of policy and interpretation, to the extent necessary to assure the coordination of intellectual property enforcement policy and consistency with other law,” report to the President and to Congress about IP enforcement programs, report to Congress about the implementation of the Plan, and “carry out such other functions as the President may direct.” Public Law No. 110-403 § 301(b)(1).

Note that the Act was signed into law nearly a year ago. Under the precise terms of the PRO-IP Act, the Joint Strategic Plan described in the Act was due to be completed and submitted to various House and Senate committees no later than October 13, 2009 – in other words, two days ago!

However, given that the appointment has just been made for the IPEC, the various deadlines set forth in the act must be modified in some manner. It will be interesting to see how much the deadlines change.

For more information, see the following:

* White House Press Release, “President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,” September 25, 2009. The press release describes Ms. Espinel’s background and qualifications for the position.

* Official Summary of the Senate version of the bill (which ultimately was signed by Pres. Bush in 2008)

* Wikipedia’s description of the PRO-IP Act

* “FAQ: What to expect from a new IP cabinet position,” CNET News, Sept. 30, 2008 (just before the Act was signed into law).

Ms. Espinel’s nomination was received in the Senate on September 29, and the matter has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Nomination PN1027-111. It does not appear that a confirmation hearing has yet been scheduled.