When are we going to wake up and make a serious effort to protect American industry?

When one thinks of a “victimless crime”, many thoughts come to mind.  One of the most perplexing, particularly in light of the current economic crisis facing the United States, is “piracy” and more specifically, the theft of “intellectual property rights” (IPR).  The federal government estimates that U.S. businesses lose $250 billion per year in sales to “pirated” goods.  That’s right, billion – not million.  That translates into the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and undermines the one area that the United States still has an edge on its international economic competitors, research and development.  Does it come as any surprise that Russia and China head a list of countries designated by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as not tough enough on economic “pirates.”

A House Committee passed a bill on April 30th that would stiffen “anti-piracy” penalties and create a White House level “intellectual property czar.”  This bill is supported by a broad base of intellectual property holders, including entertainment companies, auto parts manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and unions.  It is not supported by the Justice Department calling it unnecessary and potentially politicized.  White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, “The White House has very serious concerns with the legislation.”

“IPR czar” or not, my 33 years of federal law enforcement experience tells me that the problem is not the need for “stiffer penalties” but the lack of resources.  Only a limited number of federal agents, analysts and prosecutors are dedicated to the IPR crisis.  They do not need more penalties to be effective but more personnel (and the funding to fill those positions), training, equipment, information and intelligence.