Senators Propose Legislation For Better Intellectual Property Defense

Sens. Bayh and Voinovich say intellectual property theft has cost manufacturers billions.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Manufacturers need a more focused defense from the government in the battle over intellectual property theft, two senators said, citing the billions of dollars in losses from piracy and counterfeiting.

Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, outlined new legislation that would target the loss of intellectual property theft, replacing the current system that involves nine different agencies working on the issue. Taking a cue from the international approach to combat money laundering, it would also try to partner with other countries to help companies remain competitive.

“If we’re going to make it as a nation, we have got to look at developing the infrastructure of competitiveness. The world has changed,” Voinovich said.

Intellectual property loss affects manufacturers large and small. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study recently found counterfeiting costs U.S. companies up to $250 billion a year and linked the loss of 750,000 jobs to fake merchandise.

Ford Motor Co. estimates it costs them about $1 billion annually in lost sales, undermining vehicle safety and undercutting the billions of dollars it puts into research, design and production.

“We cannot allow intellectual property thieves…to prey upon the unsuspecting American consumer,” said Joe Wiegand, Ford’s global brand protection manager.

The proposal fits into larger concerns on Capitol Hill over the Bush administration’s handling of trade issues. Some lawmakers have tired of dialogue and want more action on the nation’s soaring trade deficits and lost manufacturing jobs, which critics have blamed in part on unfair trade practices by foreign countries.

“I’m not a protectionist. I believe in competition. But I also believe that all competitors ought to play by the same set of rules. That’s not happening today and that’s unacceptable,” Bayh said.

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