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Matched Set: Senate Considers Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008

Driving to the big city and loading up the trunk with counterfeit handbags for a purse party is about to get a little bit riskier.

Today Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Spector, along with a bipartisan group of colleagues, introduced the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008, a companion bill to the somewhat more elegantly named PRO-IP Act, which passed the House back in May.  (OK, the House version's full name is the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, but good acronyms are hard to come by.)  It seems someone figured out that having IP laws on the books is one thing, but actually enforcing them is quite another. 

Among the bill's additions to existing law are the following:

  • Authorization of the Attorney General to bring civil, not just criminal actions -- a potential benefit to intellectual property rights holders who now have to file such lawsuits on their own dime;
  • Enhanced penalties, including doubled statutory damages for counterfeiting (to $1,000 to $200,000 for use of a fake trademark and to $2m for doing so willfully);
  • New forfeiture provisions for property used to violate intellectual property rights -- like that car used to transport counterfeit handbags or a computer used to download music;
  • More enforcement resources and personnel at the local, national, and international levels, including placement of IP law enforcement coordinators in hotspots overseas; and
  • A federal Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, a.k.a. a Copyright Czar. 

The bill isn't law yet -- but with both the House and the Senate focused on IP enforcement, the summer is heating up.