Intellectual property plays a significant role in the U.S. economy, and the United States is an acknowledged leader in its creation. Industries that relied on IP protection were estimated to account for over half of all U.S. exports and employed about 18 million Americans in 2006. However, legal protection of IP varies greatly around the world, and several countries are havens for the production of counterfeit and pirated goods. Counterfeit products raise serious public health and safety concerns, and the annual losses that companies face from IP violations are substantial. Eight federal agencies undertake a wide range of activities in support of protecting IP rights, and two mechanisms coordinate protection efforts: the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Council (NIPLECC) and the Strategy for Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP). GAO was asked to address: (1) the nature of the risks that U.S. corporations face in protecting IP, particularly in countries such as China, and (2) U.S. methods for implementing and coordinating domestic IP enforcement activities. This testimony is based on issued GAO reports that focused on IP protection and related trade matters.
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