The PRO-IP Act: What is it and what does it mean for US business?

The PRO-IP Act, is a bill President Bush signed into law in October of 2008.  Its actual name is the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (the PRO-IP Act).  The PRO-IP Act provides for increased enforcement of IP laws domestically and internationally. 

The PRO-IP Act’s Trademark arm provides for increased statutory penalties ($1000 to $200,000) on both the importation and exportation of goods with counterfeit marks.  It also increases the maximum penalty for willful infringement from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000.   Finally, the trademark arm provides for treble damages where counterfeit marks are intentionally used or where goods or services are provided for the purpose of counterfeiting.   The Court is granted discretion to waive the trebling of damages only upon proof of extenuating circumstances. 

The Pro-IP Act’s Copyright arm provides for increased impoundment and seizure, including business records pursuant to an appropriate protective order.  The Copyright arm further directs the Court to ignore registration inaccuracies, unless the inaccuracy was willful, or if the Copyright Office would have refused registration based on knowledge of the inaccuracy.  Finally, the Copyright arm provides a tool for musical performers to register their works with the US Customs and Border Protection to receive notice of unauthorized copies entering the US. 

In general, the PRO-IP Act also increases coordination and enforcement of IP laws domestically and internationally by creating a White House Liaison (IPEC), providing stiffer criminal penalties, and providing $25 million dollars in annual funding to help state and local law governments combat IP theft and infringement crimes. 

It will be interesting to see how the PRO-IP Act impacts individuals, business owners, entrepreneurs, courts and IP practitioners.  However, the PRO-IP Act provides significant tools for IP owners to protect and enforce their rights.  Individuals and business owners with strong IP plans and strategies are well positioned to capitalize on the benefits that the PRO-IP Act provides.

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