White House IP coordinator Espinel steps down

Tuesday - 8/13/2013, 8:53pm EDT

The Obama administration is losing its top intellectual property official who led an aggressive campaign to beat back intellectual property theft over the last four years.

Victoria Espinel, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator in the White House, left Aug. 9, an administration official confirmed.

President Barack Obama asked Howard Shelanski, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to be the acting head of IPEC as of Aug. 10, the official said.

The official said Shelanski, who received Senate confirmation as OIRA administrator June 27, will serve as acting head of IPEC until the White House names a new coordinator. He also will continue to lead OIRA.

"Administrator Shelanski has substantial experience with intellectual property matters from his prior positions at the Federal Trade Commission, as well as from his academic work, which included serving for several years as a co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology at UC Berkeley," the official said.

In addition to Shelanski serving as acting head, IPEC chief of Staff Alex Niejelow will continue handling policy issues, the official said.

Espinel served as the first intellectual property coordinator since December 2009 when the Senate confirmed her nomination.She led the effort to create the first Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement that came out in 2010. The White House updated the plan this past June.

Additionally, her efforts have encouraged law enforcement agencies to be more aggressive in stopping IP theft.

For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased the number of IP cases it investigates by 71 percent, saw its IP-related arrests increase by 159 percent, its indictments by 264 percent and its convictions by 103 percent.

The FBI increased its health and safety-focused IP investigations by 308 percent, arrests by 286 percent and new trade secret theft cases by 39 percent.

Espinel also played a lead role in the fight against counterfeit parts in the federal supply chain. She led an interagency working group that submitted a recommendation to the President in January 2012 to improve the federal supply chain.

Espinel worked with Congress to get new laws passed to increase penalties for IP theft. Some of IPEC's recommendations that became law include harsher penalties for counterfeit goods or services sold to, or for use by, the military and increased criminal penalties for economic espionage. Congress also granted Customs and Border Protection the authority to share information on suspected counterfeits with trademark owners to better assist CBP's ability to identify and seize infringing imports.

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