|For Immediate Release
June 27, 2012
Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet
International IP Enforcement: Protecting Patents, Trade Secrets and Market Access
Chairman Smith: America’s economic success has been built on innovation. But as we develop new technologies and products, foreign governments have disadvantaged American companies by imposing barriers to market access.
During the Bush administration, intellectual property enforcement involved patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and market access.
The Bush administration established an IP attaché program in 2006 and a Global IP Academy at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). These work directly with trading partners to promote IP protection and enforcement and to advance U.S. economic and political interests.
It elevated important IP enforcement cases so that they could be raised at the Cabinet level with foreign governments. And President Bush appointed the first IP Coordinator, which was housed at the Department of Commerce.
During those years, China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), India passed a patent law, and other countries in Asia and Latin America began to modernize their IP systems. Many of the IP enforcement issues of today were just starting to arise back then.
The Bush administration had the foresight to establish new programs, hold our trading partners accountable by filing IP cases at the WTO, and use all of our trade tools to promote effective IP enforcement in all areas of intellectual property including patents and trade secrets.
It is disappointing that the IP Enforcement Coordinator is not here today even though we had informed their office of this hearing in early May.
I understand that the Coordinator chose to travel to Oregon instead of appear before this Committee. I had hoped to get better cooperation from an office this Committee established four years ago.
This Administration’s approach to international IP enforcement issues has been too weak. But it’s not too late for it to take a more comprehensive approach to IP enforcement.
As the Administration develops their next Joint Strategic Plan, they must expand their approach. The Administration should ensure that a significant part of IP enforcement includes the issues around patents, trade secrets and market access.
When foreign governments engage in practices that devalue the IP of American innovators, federal officials need to respond strongly and swiftly.
Appropriate responses should include filing IP cases at the WTO, something that we haven’t seen in the last 3 years. Under President Bush, the U.S. filed 24 WTO cases, which included 2 IP cases. Under President Obama, the U.S. has filed 8 cases and none on IP.
In the absence of WTO IP enforcement actions, many foreign countries will continue to ignore legal reforms and create major barriers to trade for U.S. companies.
Many of these patent-specific problems have intensified over the past three years. These global problems require real world solutions that go beyond simply being listed in the annual United States Trade Representative’s Special 301 watch list or a government report. They go to the very heart of our innovative companies’ ability to compete on the global playing field.
The U.S. patent system is designed to be fair. It meets our international obligations and does not discriminate against any field of technology.
The same cannot be said of the patent systems around the world. When American companies seek protection in foreign markets, they see their patent applications being held up, as patent approval times approach a decade in some countries.
They see their patents subject to lengthy pre-grant and post-grant challenges that further reduce their patent term. And they continue to face obstruction by foreign courts and administrative agencies when trying to bring their product into the local market.
Those foreign countries not only violate their international commitments, but also create a significant negative economic impact that hits the U.S. economy and domestic jobs.
I plan to introduce the Promoting a Level Playing Field for American Industry, Innovators and Job Creators Act. This IP attaché, training & capacity building bill is based on concepts developed at the PTO.
It will improve the IP attaché program and U.S. government IP training as it aligns policy priorities and brings them under the U.S. PTO. It ensures that our IP efforts abroad are in line with compelling U.S. economic interests.
The goal is to focus our efforts to deal with IP issues at their source and use all of our trading tools as we work with other countries.
As the U.S. government works with our trading partners to find solutions, we can ensure that the solutions reached are in line with compelling U.S. economic interests and job creation.