Victoria Espinel, who is expected to easily win confirmation, previously served as assistant trade representative for intellectual property.
When President Obama tapped Victoria Espinel as the first White House intellectual property enforcement coordinator on Friday, lawmakers and industry stakeholders let out a collective sigh of relief. The announcement was months in the making, and Espinel, who previously served as assistant trade representative for IP, had been considered the top candidate for the job for some time.
One reason for the delay was that administration officials were conflicted over where to put the IP czar. Eventually they settled on OMB, after ruling out the Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, USTR and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, sources said. OMB oversees strategic planning, interagency coordination and budgeting, and it is seen as a successful coordinator of programs that span multiple agencies.
Espinel, who is expected to easily win Senate confirmation, is highly regarded on Capitol Hill and within the IP community. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said her time as USTR's chief IP negotiator and her role advising key congressional committees will prove valuable.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., said he had "no doubt that she will do a first-rate job," and House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, urged the Senate to confirm her quickly.
The Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America, Copyright Alliance, Business Software Alliance, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other IP industry stakeholders hailed the nomination. Even Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn, who frequently finds herself at odds with the content community, said she believes Espinel will be fair in her approach to IP issues.
Former Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who selected Espinel for USTR's top IP post, said the set of issues she will deal with are rapidly evolving. Among the most pressing is her role in unifying the government's IP message as it prepares for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Countries like China and India might push for compulsory licensing carve-outs by arguing they cannot meet emission requirements without free or discounted access to green technology developed in the United States. General Electric and other companies, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have been putting pressure on the administration to take a stand.
Domestically, the IP coordinator will oversee the law enforcement efforts of the Homeland Security, State, and Justice departments as well as work with the Commerce Department and Patent and Trademark Office.
Chris Israel, who spearheaded interagency and international IP work from a post within the Commerce Department in the Bush administration, said Espinel might be asked to weigh in on the IP implications of key domestic priorities. Those could include the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration's plans for expanding broadband access and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's strategy for broadening his agency's network neutrality guidelines and strengthening their enforcement.
Schwab said Espinel's disposition will lessen the chance that the White House will try to duplicate efforts of agencies that work daily on IP issues, which was one of the concerns raised as the position was debated on Capitol Hill last year.
One of the first orders of business for the IP czar is drafting a strategic plan that, as prescribed by Congress, must identify "structural weaknesses, systemic flaws or other unjustified impediments" to cracking down on IP crime. It will also flag duplicative efforts among departments and articulate how effective information-sharing can occur within the United States and with other countries.