Obama Administration's track/trace recommendation lacks teeth

The Obama Administration has recommended that Congress adopt a track-and-trace system to thwart drug counterfeiters and aid product recalls. But the recommendation has no teeth.

The goal is a system that "makes it more difficult to introduce counterfeit drugs into the U.S. market, makes it easier to identify those responsible for making a product unsafe, and facilitates the recall of unsafe products." This executive call to action is long overdue.

The legislative recommendation is one of 20 made by the administration to improve intellectual property enforcement, says Victoria Espinel, the U.S. IP enforcement coordinator, in the White House Blog.

But for all the effort behind the IP-protection recommendations, which detail penalties for theft, organized crime involvement, IP transfer overseas, and new technology challenges, they lack any sense of urgency; they provide little in the way of motivation.

The document may even yield congressional inaction by committing one of the chief offenses in writing intended to promote action: beginning with a history lesson. It's unlikely that a Congress currently fixated on budgets will want to wade through 17 pages of prose that starts, "On June 22, 2010, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator...."

The recommendation document makes another rookie blunder in its lack of a deadline. Although it would be unwise for the administration to try and impose a due date for Congress, it can provide projections of the consequences of action and inaction: lives to be saved or lost, counterfeiters behind bars or actively engaged, economic impact.

A national track-and-trace system is too important and too necessary to be placed 13th in a list of 20 IP recommendations. It needs a focused Executive push of its own. - George Miller