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WASHINGTON — Senators introduced a bill Thursday that aims to protect the intellectual property of American companies, particularly small business owners, from foreign actors through law enforcement and new policy proposals.
The American IP Defense and Enforcement Advancement Act, or the IDEA Act, is a bipartisan response to large losses business owners face each year due to IP theft. Misuse of IP has cost the U.S. economy an estimated $225 billion to $600 billion each year, according to a 2017 report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property that was cited by the lawmakers.
If passed, the IDEA Act will reauthorize a state and local law enforcement intellectual property enforcement program at $25 million per year from 2024-29. The program – which supports state, local and tribal jurisdictions in preventing and reducing, investigating, and prosecuting IP theft crimes – was initially authorized for 2009-13.
The program, called PRO-IP, funded enforcement infrastructure in Austin, Texas, and Jackson, Mississippi, as well as a sheriff’s program in Chicago. There would be particular emphasis on a list of countries under watch by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. They include China, Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia — areas where IP theft against U.S. small businesses is particularly rampant.
Bipartisan lawmakers from both houses of Congress have often highlighted the urgent need for targeted solutions toward IP theft. In June, Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, implored the Justice Department to begin investigating small business IP theft from Chinese actors.
Other IDEA Act initiatives include:
- An IP Protection Legal Aid program to counsel and protect small business owners.
- Authorized studies by the Government Accountability Office on protecting IP from misuse by watch list countries and recovering financial losses from theft.
- Annual reporting requirements by the IP Enforcement Coordinator on theft prevention strategies.
- A requirement for the Joint Strategic Plan Against Counterfeiting and Infringement to include theft prevention by entities located in or operating under watchlist countries.
Sens. Tammy Baldwin and John Cornyn, the IDEA Act’s co-sponsors, said the legislation will help keep U.S. innovation in America.
“Intellectual property crimes cost American businesses hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and small businesses often lack the resources to protect themselves against foreign bad actors,” said Cornyn, R-Texas. “This legislation would help protect Texans from intellectual property theft by strengthening the partnership between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and offering legal aid to small businesses at little or no cost.”
“I am proud to work with my Republican colleague to give Wisconsin’s small businesses the tools they need to protect themselves and their ideas and empower law enforcement to go after the bad actors that are profiting off American innovation,” said Baldwin, D-Wisc.
The IDEA Act is supported by the University of Wisconsin Law School, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, according to the lawmakers.
“The American IDEA Act is a vital step towards leveling the playing field for American creators, providing tools, resources, and a strategic approach to target bad actors in key jurisdictions around the world,” said Robert Barchiesi, president of The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. “We look forward to working with Senator Baldwin and Senator Cornyn to ensure the enactment of this important legislation.”