By: Thomas Young and Dominic Keating
“… for I knew that a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab and couldn’t travel any way but sideways or backwards.” -Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
It is difficult to imagine how different the United States and the world would be if our forebears had not had the vision to recognize the importance of enacting a strong system of intellectual property (IP) protections. Numerous life-changing inventions, ranging from the lightbulb to mobile phones, trace their origins to American innovation. IP-intensive industries form an integral part of the American economy, creating more than 27.9 million jobs and adding $6.6 trillion in value to the GDP.
The USPTO’s IP Attaché Program can be a valuable resource for U.S. businesses and legal practitioners who are experiencing problems with protecting their IP rights abroad or who are considering entering a foreign market.
The IP Attaché Program consists of 13 attachés, who are IP experts posted to U.S. embassies and consulates in 10 countries throughout the world: Belgium, Brazil, China, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, Switzerland, Thailand, and Ukraine. Other than our attachés based in China and Switzerland, each attaché has regional coverage. Their mission is to advocate for U.S. IP policies and stakeholder interests in their countries or regions.
How can the IP Attaché Program help you? The IP attachés are a free resource for U.S. businesses and other stakeholders, who can provide detailed information about the laws and regulations, legislative developments, and legal and administrative means to protect, enforce and license IP rights in a particular country or region. The attachés can also apprise stakeholders about the region-specific risks to a particular industry or field, such as mandatory requirements for the licensing of technology, or notorious trade routes or ports with high trafficking of counterfeit goods.
In addition, the IP attachés work closely with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of State to engage with and educate foreign government officials on why and how to improve the effectiveness of IP systems. As diplomats, the attachés can meet with foreign government officials who may be inaccessible to U.S. stakeholders. U.S. businesses or their counsel who are experiencing IP issues abroad can contact the attaché to seek assistance. Attaché assistance may include advocating with foreign officials to improve systematic issues with an IP system.
The IP attachés also work with U.S. businesses and their counsel to organize and conduct training workshops for judges, prosecutors, police, and customs officials about best practices for IP enforcement. The workshops address a variety of topics, such as how to identify and seize counterfeit and pirated goods, as well as strategies for executing search warrants and charging entities engaged in IP misappropriation and theft. These workshops have led to tangible improvements in the enforcement regimes in regions and countries in which they have been held, often resulting in the seizure of counterfeit goods.
For example, in April 2017, the IP attaché and other U.S. government officials trained officials in Peru on digital enforcement of IP rights, including how to investigate and prosecute digital piracy. Several months afterward, Peruvian officials successfully conducted an operation to take down Pelis24 and arrest the site’s operators. The site was one of the most prolific digital piracy websites in the region, and had attracted more than 25 million visitors from Argentina and Mexico and infringed on more than 5,000 works belonging to U.S. copyright holders.
So, if you are experiencing problems with protecting IP rights abroad or are considering entering a foreign market, please take advantage of the expertise and experience of the IP attachés.
More information about the IP Attaché Program and contact information for the attachés is available on the IP Attaché Pages of the USPTO website at www.uspto.gov/ipattache.
 Figures are from 2014. See U.S. Department of Commerce, Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update, 2016, https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/IPandtheUSEconomySept2016.pdf.
Source: Young, T., et al. USPTO’s IP Attaché Program." AIPLA, https://www.aipla.org/innovate/uspto-s-ip-attach%C3%A9-program