SUNNYVALE, Calif. - The Commerce Department is sending teams of experts into countries known for piracy and counterfeit goods in an effort to combat intellectual property theft abroad, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said Wednesday.
The groups, called Intellectual Property Rights Experts, will operate in Brazil, China, India, Russia and elsewhere. They will follow up and monitor cases as well as have daily contact with officials in those countries, Gutierrez said in a speech to Silicon Valley executives.
"It's an escalation of our effort to ensure that we have adequate monitoring - that we have people on the ground following up on cases, advocating for companies and talking to local officials," he said in an interview after the speech.
Intellectual property theft is a top concern in Silicon Valley and other high-tech centers around the nation.
"When software thieves go unpunished, innovation suffers and the economy doesn't grow as fast as it should," said Robert Holleyman, chief executive officer of the Business Software Alliance. "Today's announcement will provide software makers with important on-the-ground assistance to combat theft in problematic regions."
A recent study by the BSA and the research firm IDC found that 90 percent of software used in China was pirated. The figure was 64 percent in Brazil, 74 percent in India, 87 percent in Russia, 70 percent in Thailand and 58 percent in the Middle East.
In July, the Bush administration created a new position to coordinate government efforts to battle the foreign theft of intellectual property. President Bush named Commerce Department official Christian Israel to the post.
"We are doing everything possible to defend and protect what you create," Gutierrez said in his speech at the Sunnyvale campus of chip-equipment maker Applied Materials Inc.