- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

The Bush administration’s top trade and law enforcement officials yesterday said they would make life “miserable” for companies that manufacture and sell counterfeit goods around the world.

Three members of President Bush’s Cabinet announced an initiative to fight theft of intellectual property, an illegal global trade that cheats American companies out of billions of dollars a year.

“The message to the … pirates and counterfeiters is simple — we will do everything we can to make their life miserable,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, flanked by Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson.

China is the world’s main source of counterfeit goods, producing illegal copies of software, movies and music, pharmaceuticals, car parts, clothes and other brand-name goods.

U.S. businesses have felt the pinch as products and brands they develop are reproduced cheaply and often poorly.

“These crimes are growing in scope and severity — no product category is out of the reach of counterfeiters,” said David Hirschmann, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “These criminals are a global problem and they are increasingly preying on U.S. employers and consumers.”

The chamber said intellectual-property crimes drain an estimated $200 billion to $250 billion from the U.S. economy and result in the loss of 750,000 American jobs.

The administration rolled out the Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) initiative with less than one month to go before the presidential election and as the campaign focus turns to the economy. Competition from China has been an especially sensitive topic.

Mr. Evans yesterday said the interagency program is the culmination of successful efforts to protect the intellectual capital of American firms — not an election ploy.

“I do not accept the notion that we have not been aggressively pursuing this around the world,” he said.

The new program builds on technology and targeting methods developed to prevent smuggling by terrorists to stop counterfeit goods at the border. The administration also said it would “name and shame” companies that make or sell counterfeits, try to dismantle criminal organizations that traffic in counterfeiting and work with trade partners to block trade in pirated goods.

The administration also set up a telephone hot line for small businesses — 866/999-HALT — that want to contact the government to enforce copyright and trademarks internationally.

Many small companies that manufacture products in the United States and sell products internationally are especially vulnerable to counterfeiting because they lack resources to petition foreign governments to enforce their rights, and to combat foreign companies that copy their products.

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