White House picks D.C. attorney Danny Marti to be the next ‘IP czar’


The South Lawn and the White House is pictured in Washington August 7, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing )

The White House announced Thursday that it is nominating a new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, known colloquially as the "IP czar." He is Washington lawyer Daniel H. Marti.

The position coordinates U.S. law-enforcement strategy around copyright, patents and trademarks.  The coordinator's duties, somewhat controversial from the start, include harmonizing the enforcement activities of several federal agencies under the White House's  Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement.

The "czar" spot has been vacant since last August, when Victoria Espinel left the post. When paired with the long-standing vacancy at the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, that has led to grumbling in some quarters that the White House hasn't been making a priority of so-called intellectual property issues.

Marti, who is known as "Danny," is the managing partner in the D.C. office of the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. He received a B.A. from Georgetown University in 1996 and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta in 1999.

According to his law firm biography, Marti has "represented clients in a wide range of cases involving trademarks, false advertising, unfair competition, copyrights, trade secrets, cybersquatting and computer fraud and abuse matters before various U.S. federal courts, as well as the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)."

Those clients have tended to be in the business of selling high-end and mid-range consumer fashion products; Marti's record includes working on behalf of brands like Tory Burch, Adidas, and American Eagle Outfitters to protect their trademarks and other rights.

The Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator post was created under the 2008 Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act (PRO-IP) Act, a bill pushed for by the entertainment industries. At the time, the Justice Department in particular complained that the new coordinator, housed in the White House's Office of Management and Budget, might complicate existing law enforcement efforts.

Reactions to the appointment have tended to focus on the position rather than on Marti himself.

"We are pleased that the President has appointed Danny Marti as the next U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator,"  NBCUniversal general counsel Kim Harris said in a statement, “and urge Congress to move quickly to confirm his nomination to this important position. We look forward to working with Danny and the administration on the important issue of protecting IP, which is a key driver of American innovation and economic growth.”

Said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center, "We are pleased to see the administration moving forward with filling this critical role and the Chamber is anxious to build on the successes and momentum already established by the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. As Congress recognized when it created this position in 2008 with strong bipartisan support, American consumers, workers and job creators, benefit from this critical effort to protect our creative and innovative industries.‎"

Meanwhile, Mitch Stoltz, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an e-mail that "given Mr. Marti's background, he certainly understands that careless over-enforcement of trademark, copyright, and patent laws can harm our economic progress and our freedom of speech. We hope he reaches out to many segments of society, including independent artists and innovators, educators, small businesses, and nonprofits, and listens to their input on what the government's priorities should be."

"Mr. Marti," Stoltz said, "should put government resources to work stopping truly dangerous counterfeit products and abusive patent trolls, instead of controversial copyright policing."

Marti still needs to be confirmed by the Senate.

Correction: The name of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of this story. It is "David Hirschmann," not "David Hirschman." It has been fixed. 

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Nancy Scola is a reporter who covers the intersections of technology and public policy, politics, and governance.
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