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SEMA applauded President Bush’s decision to sign into law legislation to strengthen intellectual property (IP) protections for American businesses and consumers. Passage of the Pro-IP Act has been a top legislative priority for SEMA. The new law increases civil and criminal laws against counterfeiting and piracy, and establishes permanent programs in which the U.S. government works with industry and foreign governments to fight global piracy.

“Lawmakers have taken an important step in helping combat the scourge of counterfeiting,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. “Our industry is all about innovation, technology and quality. Counterfeiters rob our companies of those valuable assets. This provides the U.S. government with new tools and resources to fight intellectual property thieves. Our industry owes a particular debt of gratitude to Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) for their leadership in getting the legislation enacted into law.”

Enactment of the new law was the culmination of more than two years of work by SEMA and other industry groups fighting for stronger protection of U.S. copyrights, trademarks and patents. One highlight of the law is the establishment of an IP czar who will coordinate all government anti-counterfeiting actions and report directly to the president.

Over the years, SEMA members have registered an increasing number of complaints about counterfeit products and illegal knock-offs. Enactment of the law authorizes more federal enforcement officers and agents in the field dedicated to investigating counterfeiting claims.  Additional enforcement personnel will help track counterfeiters from the point of foreign production, through importation and distribution to store shelves.

Counterfeiters will face stiffer criminal penalties when they are apprehended, especially if the products potentially affect consumer safety. The law does not change a basic requirement that businesses must first register their copyrights, trademarks and patents with the appropriate government authorities in order to establish enforceable legal rights. 

Counterfeiting has had a large cost on the industry, and the new law holds the potential to provide important relief. “Since 1999, SEMA member Auto Meter has spent over $2 million dollars protecting itself against infringing imports,” said Auto Meter President Jeff King.

“Auto Meter applauds lawmakers for providing industry, federal courts and government agencies with more tools to address this problem. Our company is fighting every day to protect American innovation, jobs and consumers, and share this investment in intellectual property with the rest of the world. Products continue to enter the U.S. market, and every year Auto Meter loses tens of thousands of dollars in sales to these illegal products.”