Intellectual Property (IP) driven industries significantly contribute to the U.S. economy and drive innovation, growth, and competition. Because of IP’s value, various actors—including individuals, criminal organizations, and nation-state competitors—exploit IP as a direct source of profit, to fund other illegal activity, or as a source of economic advantage.
The Patent and Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution has protected holders of intellectual property since the founding of the United States and underscores the importance of IP in protecting consumers, contributing to the national economy, and driving innovation. Within the FBI, the investigation of intellectual property rights crimes dates back to 1908—when its first agents focused primarily on white-collar crime, including copyright violations.
Few could have predicted the growth of intellectual property and the related crime problems experienced in today’s interconnected, high tech global marketplace. Commerce conducted in an increasingly digital world challenges consumers to distinguish fake and illicit products from the genuine products they seek to purchase. This poses a threat that affects citizens across all social demographics. Whether it's criminals selling fake automobile airbags, children’s toys that contain lead, or counterfeit pharmaceuticals, these products have the ability to seriously harm or kill consumers who unknowingly purchase and use them. Additionally, businesses seeking to bring new products to market may find their tightly-held trade secrets stolen, which may result in severe financial losses or possibly complete bankruptcy.
The FBI’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) program investigates theft of trade secrets, counterfeit products, and copyright and/or trademark infringement cases. Priority is given to matters posing a threat to public health and safety, national security, or those having significant economic impact. The FBI’s overarching objective in enforcing intellectual property rights is to disrupt and dismantle international and domestic individuals and organizations that manufacture or traffic in counterfeit and pirated goods or those who steal, distribute, or otherwise profit from the theft of intellectual property and trade secrets. The FBI works diligently to address the IP threat by utilizing its vast expertise in IP, money laundering, organized crime, cybercrime, national security, undercover operations, data analytics, and related areas.
The FBI is a full partner in the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center in Crystal City, Virginia. The IPR Center brings together 25 domestic and international law enforcement and government partners to address the IP crime problem. IPR Center partners leverage their various authorities to interdict, investigate, coordinate referrals, and conduct training and outreach to private industry to ensure law enforcement possesses timely intelligence on the crime problem.
For the FBI, engagement with the private sector is critical to addressing the IP threat. The FBI invests a significant amount of time collaborating with the private sector through the IPR Center and at various conferences, seminars and symposia throughout the United States and around the world. This engagement allows the FBI and the private sector to discuss the latest trends and best practices, educate one another, and find solutions to identify, disrupt, and dismantle counterfeit operations for the benefit of the victim businesses and consumers.
For more information on the FBI, you may visit our website at www.fbi.gov. To report suspected criminal activity, visit www.fbi.gov/tips. For information about the National Intellectual Property Rights Center, visit www.iprcenter.gov.