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The U.S. Department of Justice (often referred to as the Justice Department or DOJ), is the federal executive department of the United States that is responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice — equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.

It is "responsible to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law, to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic, to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime, to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans."[1]

The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is a member of the U.S. Cabinet.

Intellectual property prosecutions[]

The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutes IP cases referred from ICE, FBI, and FDA, as well as from private sector representatives and other sources. IP enforcement is one of the department’s highest priorities. The Department investigates and prosecutes a wide range of IP crimes, including those involving copyrighted works, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Primary investigative and prosecutorial responsibility within the Department rests with the FBI; the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). In addition to enforcing existing criminal laws protecting IP, the Department has supported and contributed to most major legislative developments updating criminal IP laws, including: the PRO IP Act; the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA), which criminalizes “camcording” (the illegal copying of movies in a theater) and unauthorized distribution of pre-release works over the Internet; the No Electronic Theft Act ("NET Act"), which criminalizes the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works without a commercial purpose or financial gain; and the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA), which criminalizes the theft of trade secrets.

DOJ’s IP enforcement is carried out primarily by the 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices located throughout the country as well as its Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). Under DOJ’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) program, each U.S. Attorney's Office has one CHIP coordinator who is trained in prosecuting IP enforcement cases.[2] In addition, 25 U.S Attorney’s Offices have CHIP units, usually comprised of 2 or more attorneys (a few units have as many as 8 attorneys), who focus solely on prosecuting computer hacking or IP crimes. IP crimes prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office are not limited to CHIP units, but may be prosecuted as part of a larger case, such as one involving organized crime. CCIPS, located in DOJ headquarters, is responsible for supporting IP prosecutions by U.S. Attorney's Offices, as well as prosecuting their own cases. CCIPS is also responsible for developing DOJ's overall IP enforcement strategy and coordinating among U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials on domestic and international cases of IP theft.

Task Force on Intellectual Property[]


In March 2004, the Attorney General announced the creation of a DOJ Task Force on Intellectual Property, with a mission of identifying ways to strengthen the department's IP enforcement efforts. The Task Force's work culminated in a 2004 report,[3] which identified 31 recommendations to improve the Department's overall IP enforcement efforts. In 2006, the Department issued a comprehensive progress report that indicated it had implemented or was in the process of implementing all 31 of the Task Force's original recommendations.[4]

As established by the Task Force, the Department's IP enforcement goals can be summarized as follows:

  • The laws protecting IP rights must be enforced.
  • The federal government and IP owners have a collective responsibility to take action against violations of federal IP laws.
  • The Department should take a leading role in the prosecution of the most serious violations of the laws protecting copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets, typically cases that are complex and large in scale, and threaten our economic national security or involve a threat to the public health and welfare.
  • The federal government should punish those who misuse innovative technologies rather than innovation itself.
  • IP enforcement must include the coordinated and cooperative efforts of foreign governments. The global nature of IP crime requires the informal assistance of foreign governments and their law enforcement agencies, active enforcement of their own IP laws, and formal international cooperation through treaties and international agreements.

To carry out those principles, in its 2004 report, the Task Force identified a set of 12 policy and practice recommendations to increase criminal enforcement of IP laws. In the five years preceding enactment of the PRO IP Act, the Department implemented, or continued to implement, each of those 12 recommendations:

(1) The creation of additional CHIP Units in regions of the country where IP producers significantly contribute to the national economy;
(2) The reinforcement and expansion of existing CHIP Units located in key regions where IP offenses have increased, and where the CHIP Units have effectively developed programs to prosecute CHIP-related cases, coordinate law enforcement activity, and promote public awareness programs;
(3) The designation of CHIP Coordinators in every federal prosecutor's office, who will be responsible for IP enforcement in that region;
(4) Examination of the need to increase resources for the CCIPS to address additional IP concerns;
(5) Recommending that the FBI increase the number of Special Agents assigned to IP investigations, as the Justice Department itself increases the number of prosecutors assigned to IP enforcement concerns;
(6) Recommending that the FBI increase the number of personnel assigned to search for digital evidence in IP cases;
(7) Prosecuting more nationwide and international criminal organizations that commit IP crimes;
(8) Enhancing programs to train prosecutors and law enforcement agents investigating IP offenses;
(9) Aggressively prosecuting IP offenses that endanger the public's health or safety;
(10) Emphasizing the importance of charging IP offenses in every type of investigation where such charges are applicable, including organized crime, fraud, and illegal international smuggling;
(11) Enhancing education and encouragement of victims of IP offenses and industry representatives to cooperate in criminal investigations, including:
(A) Encouraging victims to report IP crime to law enforcement agencies;
(B) Distributing the "Reporting Intellectual Property Crime: A Guide for Victims of Copyright Infringement, Trademark Counterfeiting, and Trade Secret Theft" to victims and industry representatives regarding federal IP offenses; and
(C) Hosting a conference with victims and industry representatives to educate participants on how they can assist in law enforcement investigations; and
(12) Issuing internal guidance to federal prosecutors regarding how victims can assist prosecutors in IP cases.


DOJ is responsible for prosecuting violations of cyber-related laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. HSPD-7 also directs DOJ to work with DHS in efforts to investigate and prosecute threats to and attacks against cyberspace. Further, the directive instructs DOJ, and other federal agencies, to work with foreign countries and international organizations to strengthen critical infrastructure and key resources of the United States. The department has a role in the activities of the International Sub-IPC.

According to DOJ officials, multiple DOJ subcomponents conduct activities that can impact international efforts related to cyber security and governance. For example, DOJ’s Criminal Division, through the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), is responsible for prosecuting U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who commit electronic crimes. CCIPS also provides international training on cybercrime and participates in a number of international organizations addressing cybercrime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Cyber Division is the lead federal agency for investigating cybercrime, including criminal intrusions, online child protection, intellectual property protection, and identity theft. In addition, the FBI operates the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force that includes intelligence and law enforcement agencies and is tasked with investigating, predicting, and preventing cyberterrorism, cyber espionage, and cybercrime.

DOJ’s National Security Division’s (NSD) primary mission is counterterrorism and protecting against other threats to national security, and it is responsible for coordinating efforts between the U.S. intelligence community and prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.

The U.S. National Central Bureau of INTERPOL (USNCB) represents the United States as an INTERPOL member and serves as a point of contact for U.S. federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement for the international exchange of information for criminal investigations.


  1. Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy, Glossary, at A-4.
  2. Under the CHIP program, prosecutors are assigned four areas of responsibility: prosecuting computer crime and IP offenses; serving as a technical advisor for other prosecutors and law enforcement agents; assisting other CHIP coordinators in multi-district investigations; and providing training and community outreach regarding computer-related issues.
  3. Report of the Department of Justice's Task Force on Intellectual Property.
  4. Progress Report of the Department of Justice's Task Force on Intellectual Property.

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