Last month, Erik M. Pelton & Associates (EMP&A) was one of 62 organizations, firms, and individuals who filed a response to the White House’s Intellectual Property Coordinator’s triennial requests for comments on development of the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. Our comments can be found here. The submitted comments have been made publically available (http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=OMB-2015-0003). Here are highlights from several influential submitters:
International Trademark Association (INTA):
INTA’s comments are, naturally, focused on trademark law and protection. INTA’s comments focus heavily on counterfeiting issues. In particular, INTA recommends encouraging states to take greater action by adopting its Model State Anti-counterfeiting Law. INTA also emphasized a need for more streamlined customs processes and border protection. INTA also requested stronger measures to reduce “parallel imports” (goods produced and sold legally overseas and then imported into the US). INTA called for increasing importance of public awareness and education on the value of IP and the harms of counterfeiting (as did EMP&A). Finally, INTA pointed out opportunities for the U.S. to assist other countries to enforce IPR more effectively.
American Bar Association – IP Section (ABA-IPL):
Like most submissions, the ABA comments covered a broad range of IP issues. Concerning trademarks, the ABA focused on problems with counterfeit drugs. The ABA also drew attention to online piracy and “Predatory Foreign Websites,” but made no serious recommendations in light of “controversy” around using copyright laws to fix piracy issues. The ABA’s comments did note a need for balanced interests in resolving the problems, however. Finally, the ABA also emphasized Customs & Border Control measures. In particular, the ABA drew attention to the International Trade Commission exclusion orders and the role they play in protecting IP.
US Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce comments call for more criminal enforcement of IP laws and for steps toward a “Safe Internet Environment,” which it characterizes as strengthening laws to prevent and criminalize piracy (e.g., laws like SOPA, which failed in Congress after backlash from the tech industry and the public). The Chamber called for more funding of US IP agencies including many non-traditional IP agencies that focus on enforcement rather than administration, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and the DOJ (particularly the Computer Crimes and IP Section). Finally, the Chamber called for more international attention to IP, particularly by focusing on key markets and international legal frameworks.
Predictably, Google took the time to highlight the role of the Internet and new technology in the economy and the company’s relationship with IP. Google emphasized voluntary efforts to stop piracy, perhaps as a way of suggesting that stakeholders can achieve better IP protection without the need for additional laws and regulations. Google also made several recommendations. Google wants to encourage growth of lawful online content to fill the void that piracy serves. Google also called for modernization of the Copyright Office. Google asked the government to work with stakeholders on the predatory foreign websites problem rather than simply legislating/regulating. Google recommended a uniform customs recordation process that would simplify international commerce and suggested more efforts to protect against predatory gTLD pricing. Finally, Google called for the US to promote a balanced framework that enables freedom of information.
Finally, a coalition of online service providers made-up of Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, and Shapeways submitted a comment warning against the dangers of trademark (enforcement) abuse. These companies noted that “abusive trademark enforcement is not synonymous with enforcing rights to the fullest extent allowed under the law” and pointed out that spurious IP complaints are often used to control the free flow of information. The group’s comment called for a “safe harbor” provision in the trademark law, similar to that found in the DMCA for copyright takedowns, that would allow users to push back against “problematic” takedown requests and help develop a public body of case law concerning online trademark disputes. EMP&A believe that this is an idea worth further exploration, Congressional hearings, etc.
Additional comments of note included a letter from the Attorneys General of 17 states calling for a greater ability for states to enforce IP rights; and a letter from Public Knowledge calling for caution, both in the scope of IPEC’s recommendations and in IPEC’s reliance of recommendations and data from interested stakeholders.