Friday, September 25, 2009

It's official: Victoria Espinel nominated as 'IP Czar'

Almost a year after President Bush signed the PRO-IP Act into law, President Obama today named former USTR attorney and IP expert Victoria Espinel to be the first US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator -- better known as the IP Czar. According to National Journal's Tech Daily Dose, the IP Czar position will be housed in the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the Executive office of the President. Pursuant to Section 301 of the PRO-IP Act, which created the position, the IP Czar's duties include:
  • The development of a Joint Strategic Plan against counterfeiting and infringement
  • Assisting in the implementation of such a plan
  • Facilitating the issuance of policy guidance to departments and agencies on basic issues of IP to ensure consistency throughout the government
  • Chairing an interagency IP enforcement committee established by the statute
  • Reporting to Congress on domestic and international IP enforcement, and recommending improvements
The statute explicitly provides that the IP Czar "may not control or direct any law enforcement agency, including the Department of Justice, in the exercise of its investigative or prosecutorial authority." The position is subject to Senate confirmation.

Here's the official White House announcement:

Victoria A. Espinel, Nominee for U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Office of Management and Budget

Victoria A. Espinel is the founder and President of Bridging the Innovation Divide, a not-for-profit foundation focused on addressing the "innovation divide" and empowering all Americans to obtain the full benefit of their creativity and ingenuity. From 2007-2009, Ms. Espinel was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Mason University School of Law. Her areas of teaching and research were intellectual property and international trade. She has acted as advisor on intellectual property issues to the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Finance Committee, House Judiciary Committee and House Ways and Means Committee. She also served as an advisor to Romulus Global Issues Management and is a member of the Brain Trust of the Global Innovation Forum. In 2005, Ms. Espinel was asked to serve as the first ever Assistant United States Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, serving as the chief U.S. trade negotiator for intellectual property and innovation. She testified on numerous occasions before the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Ms. Espinel also served as Deputy Assistant USTR for Intellectual Property and as Associate General Counsel at USTR. Before joining USTR, Ms. Espinel was with the law firms of Covington & Burling in London and Washington, D.C., and Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in New York. She holds an LLM from the London School of Economics, a JD from Georgetown University Law School, and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

So far, Espinel's nomination has been warmly received by groups ranging from from Public Knowledge to the US Chamber of Commerce. I'll collect more reactions to Espinel's reaction later. In the meantime, congratulations.

One last thing: before Glenn Beck and the rest of the anti-czar brigade use this as another example of a "shadow government . . . giving the Obama administration unprecedented power with virtually no oversight," please keep in mind at least two things. First, "IP Czar" is a completely unofficial term, used by the media and others as shorthand. The official title is "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" or "IPEC." Second, the statute that created the position passed the House 410-11 and by unanimous consent in the Senate, and it was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. This was not some left-wing, "czarist" power-grab.

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