08/15/2012 09:08 am ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

U.S. IP Strategy, 2.0 -- Protecting Innovation in the Cloud

When Congress created the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) in 2008, cloud computing was unfamiliar to most people outside of the IT industry. Today, it is one of the fastest-growing segments of the information economy. In the interim, recognizing the potential to capitalize on efficiencies of scale and capture maximum benefit from federal IT spending, the Administration has been implementing a “Cloud First” policy to guide its procurement. Now, as IPEC gears up to issue its second Joint Strategic Plan on IP Enforcement, there is an opportunity -- indeed, a necessity -- to ensure we are guarding against misappropriation or infringement of IP rights in the cloud.

In its first Joint Strategic Plan, the Administration made substantial progress in marshaling the combined resources of the federal government to enforce the IP protections that have long encouraged US technology innovation. Among other noteworthy accomplishments, US officials raised end-user software piracy as a top-tier international trade issue, developed guidance on technology neutrality in federal software procurement, worked with other countries on Special 301 lists to develop concrete action plans for reducing piracy, launched US Embassy IP interagency teams for 17 countries, and worked with payment processors and advertisers to stop doing business with pirates and counterfeiters.

That was a strong start. But the pace of technology innovation requires policy to evolve, too. Perhaps most pressing for the next iteration of the Joint Strategic Plan, due by law on December 31, should be preparing for new forms of IP theft in the cloud and mobile arenas. In comments filed last week with IPEC, BSA called attention to emerging issues such as unauthorized access to public cloud services, criminal “dark cloud” services, and mobile device piracy. BSA’s comments also recommended that the next US IP plan require federal contractors to certify they use only licensed software, continue facilitating stakeholder dialogue to deal with online software piracy, and expand overseas IP protection and enforcement through new trade tools. And near the top of the agenda again is China, where the Administration should continue pressing for measurable progress against end-user software theft.

IPEC’s Joint Strategic Plan provides vital guidance to federal agencies -- and, more broadly, to US trading partners. It demonstrates that America will be a standard-bearer for IP rights that are essential in an innovation-driven economy. That need will continue to be as important as ever in the cloud era.