The auto parts industry is applauding the pending creation of a new intellectual property ``czar'' position to strengthen U.S. response to patent and trademark piracy.
Mandated by an amendment to the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in November, the person appointed to the new position will be charged with coordinating U.S. efforts in international intellectual property law enforcement. He or she also will head an existing body, the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Council.
Currently, the council-which coordinates domestic and international intellectual property enforcement-is co-chaired by Jon Dudas, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Christopher Wray, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department Criminal Division. Messrs. Dudas and Wray will report to the new czar, as will the other council members, which include top officials from the Commerce and State Departments, the Customs Service and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
The amendment creating the new position is in the conference report of the spending bill, said Brian Duggan, director of international affairs for the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA).
``But I don't think they (the Bush administration) have decided where this is going,'' Mr. Duggan said. ``Will the new czar's office be part of the White House? The National Economic Council? USTR? I don't think they've decided.''
Nevertheless, MEMA-which has long advocated stronger U.S. enforcement of intellectual property rights-is delighted with the prospect of a new official to coordinate enforcement efforts. MEMA claims that counterfeit tires, brakes, belts, glass, oil and air filters and other parts costs the global auto parts industry $12 billion annually-$3 billion of which is in the U.S.
And this is just the dollar amount of the counterfeit parts that are sold, the association adds. The auxiliary damages-to motorists who unknowingly buy bogus parts and are endangered as a result, and to legitimate manufacturers who face legal action and loss of reputation because of fake parts bearing their logos-are incalculable.
Besides creating the intellectual property czar position, Mr. Duggan said, the spending bill also directs the State Department to appoint a new assistant secretary charged with monitoring and rooting out product counterfeiting internationally. A State Department spokeswoman said the agency has not yet received any directives from the White House on the creation of this new position.
Mr. Duggan told Tire Business MEMA didn't have a list of any candidates it would like to see in the post, noting that there are pros and cons to choosing an official from Customs, from USTR or from law enforcement.