Government experts in intellectual property will be sent to Brazil, India, Russia, Thailand and the Middle East to monitor and encourage local anti-piracy efforts, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutie

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Government experts in intellectual property will be sent to Brazil, India, Russia, Thailand and the Middle East to monitor and encourage local anti-piracy efforts, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told studio leaders Sept. 22.

The project builds on an experiment during the past year to have a Commerce Department agent help Beijing authorities identify and shut down counterfeit operations and pursue criminal investigations.

"We've seen some movement and a great deal of effort on the part of some government officials, but we want to see more results," Gutierrez said after the briefing at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. "We've found that a lot of countries have made progress in putting laws on the books but not enough progress in enforcing those laws."

As part of their five-year assignment, each Commerce Department official also will assist U.S. businesses in protecting their products in these markets. The program might be expanded to other countries depending on its success, Gutierrez said.

The plan first was announced to the tech industry Sept. 21 in San Jose, Calif., as part of a broader bid to protect intellectual property including packaged goods and pharmaceuticals. Piracy and counterfeiting costs the U.S. economy an estimated $250 billion annually and threaten about 750,000 jobs.

For Hollywood, it bolsters the law-enforcement activities that have been under way for more than a year by the Justice Department, Gutierrez said.

"This is a priority for President Bush and has been since Day 1 of his administration," he said. "We are building our economy on what we do best, which is creativity, innovation, great brands [and] great patents. We cannot allow a global economic community to be created where these things don't matter and where they are not respected."

The message was delivered to MPAA chairman/CEO Dan Glickman and such studio leaders as Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer and Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos. Also in attendance was Chris Israel, who was appointed by Bush to coordinate the government's overall anti-piracy campaign.

It will be the first time that intellectual property experts from the Commerce Department have been deployed to Brazil, India, Russia and Thailand. Two additional experts will join the one already assigned to China.

"The motion picture industry remains a strong and driving force in our economy, and protecting American ideas is very important for us and our country, not only for the economic value of the hundreds of thousands of jobs we produce but also for the social and cultural value," Glickman said.

As part of this project, the Commerce Department will expand the university-style academy it uses to train foreign officials in U.S. intellectual property practices. The school is run by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and will receive a dedicated space at its Alexandria, Va., headquarters in the fall.

A third component of the Commerce Department's plan is to educate small businesses on a grass-roots level. Gutierrez said that this is intended to teach business owners about patents and other ways to protect their intellectual property.