Earlier today, the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s Office released a strategy on Intellectual Property enforcement. The document addresses the problem of rogue Internet pharmacies, and suggests that the Obama Administration will bolster IP enforcement as another tool to address the problem.
Traditionally, much of the approach regarding rogue Internet pharmacies has been on the public health risks. However, intellectual property enforcement provides another avenue to strike at the problem, and is inextricably tied to health and public safety risks. After all, most rogue Internet pharmacies, besides selling prescription drugs without a prescription, are engaged in violation of intellectual property rights at some level or another (especially patent and trademark infringement).
Among its other content, the IPEC strategy:
Praises Google, Yahoo and Bing for requiring VIPPS accreditation. The strategy states: “Google, Yahoo and Bing recently updated voluntary protocols designed to prevent the sale of sponsored results for unlawful businesses selling counterfeit medications online…the US Government applauds these efforts by the private sector and will continue to work with these companies and other search engine operators, advertising brokers and payment processors to explore methods to prohibit paid advertising for online illegal pharmaceutical vendors.”
Calls for the establishment of a Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Interagency Committee. The strategy states that the Commitee…”shall examine the myriad of problems associated with unlicensed Internet pharmacies, health and safety risks in the U.S. associated with the distribution of counterfeits…”
Recommends private sector cooperation to address the problem. The strategy urges “…content owners, Internet service providers, advertising brokers, payment processors and search engines, to work collaboratively, consistent with the antitrust laws, to address activity that has a negative economic impact and undermines U.S. businesses, and to seek practical and efficient solutions to address infringement.”
Cites LegitScript data. The report cites LegitScript in a couple of places, noting that “LegitScript, an online pharmacy verification service, identified over 36,000 online pharmacies as of March 2010 that do not meet the standards for certification by this company.”
The third point, urging private sector cooperation to address the problem, is a good one. Rogue Internet pharmacies rely on “safe haven” Domain Name Registrars, ISPs, boutique payment processors and other third parties to stay in business. The counterfeit drug problem is not insurmountable: Registrars such as GoDaddy, eNom, Directi, Name.com, Sibername and others, as well as ISPs and payment service providers, have the ability to help make the Internet a safer place through the sort of voluntary adoption of standards that the strategy refers to. Some of these companies (and all three search engines’ sponsored ad programs) have adopted such policies.
LegitScript applauds the Administration’s intellectual property enforcement strategy, and looks forward to supporting enforcement efforts designed to make the Internet a safer place.