Philip Morris International Inc (PMI) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist and support Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) illicit tobacco trade operations and other intellectual property rights investigations.
The MOU is focused on comprehensive strategies and coordinating efforts to disrupt and combat all forms of illicit tobacco trade, as well as to address vital areas of intellectual property, brand protection, and anti-counterfeiting strategies. The agreement will also facilitate knowledge transfer between the center and PMI to share mutually beneficial information and research to combat the illicit tobacco trade and assist in other intellectual property rights investigations.
“The agreement being signed today, is a continuation of a years-long partnership between the IPR Center and PMI to protect the American public by enforcing the nation’s intellectual property rights laws and educating consumers on the dangers of illicitly traded tobacco products. The IPR Center will leverage this robust public-private partnership to develop outreach, training efforts and share referral information to open investigations and target these criminal acts,” said Steve Francis, IPR Center director.
Following an unprecedented year—when criminal and terrorist organizations swiftly adapted and migrated their operations to suit the new environment—this partnership illustrates how public- and private-sector cooperation can make full use of existing expertise and information sharing to foster innovative solutions and evolving technologies.
In 2020, PMI recognized the urgent need to convene a myriad group of government, diplomatic, public, and private institutions to advance solutions to strengthen national security by upping the fight against illicit products—from illicit tobacco-containing products to faulty personal protective equipment (PPE). These successes include:
- Taking tens of thousands of online and offline enforcement actions against IP infringements in the U.S. and globally, including against IP infringing online marketplace listings, social media accounts, and websites.
- Working in close cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to disrupt online operations illegally distributing tobacco containing products.
- Launching a first of its kind, six-week virtual certification course titled “Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products: Convergence with Crime,” comprised of more than 500 registrants representing 133 U.S. law enforcement agencies.
- Building sustainable public-private partnerships through initiatives such as:
- PMI IMPACT, a global initiative to support public, private, and nongovernmental organizations, which has allocated $48 million for the implementation of more than 60 projects in 30 countries to combat illegal trade and related crimes.
- A partnership with the California Narcotic Officers’ Association (CNOA), a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing high-quality training for law enforcement professionals.
- Driving more than 346,000 clicks to DHS resources dedicated to helping recognize and report fraudulent PPE goods through a public service campaign—led by PMI and supported by other private industry and academic leaders—to raise awareness about the emerging threat of fraudulent PPE products.
During the signing event at the IPR Center, PMI’s vice president of external affairs J.B. Simko said, “PMI is focused on developing smoke-free alternatives that are a better choice for adults than continued smoking. Our goal is that one day these products will replace combustible cigarettes for good. The illicit trade undermines these efforts by making unregulated products more accessible, so we are determined to do our part to fight it.”