Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $400,000)
Proposal Abstract Intellectual property (IP) theft is an ever-evolving issue in North Carolina. The North Carolina Secretary of State (NCSOS), through its trademark enforcement mission, has encountered sellers of counterfeit and infringing products in nearly every county, from the metropolitan to the rural. In keeping with the NCSOS mission of fostering a fertile environment for capital formation by protecting the IP of businesses and mark holders in NC, the Taskforce has seized a variety of counterfeit and infringing products. The main areas in which NCSOS seeks to address through this grant are: 1. Enhance and expand the existing NCSOS Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce recruiting officers from North Carolina’s 13 rural counties to join the Taskforce. 2. Expand our partnerships to include information sharing with more federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Attorney’s Offices in NC, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) by including them in the annual training and quarterly meetings held for the Taskforce. 3. Provide Taskforce members documented information about the targeting, investigation, analysis, and prosecution of matters involving IP crimes at the annual training and quarterly meetings NCSOS offers. 4. Continue to assist HSI with inspections of packages entering this state through various package carriers. Some NCSOS law enforcement agents and Taskforce members are cross designated as HSI customs officers and are members of the HSI Taskforce in North Carolina. 5. Provide resources to assist Taskforce-led IP crime investigations by funding the Special Resource Prosecutor position and travel, funding storage for seized evidence, and continued partnership with the National Cyber-Forensic and Training Alliance. 6. Enhance the capability to conduct investigations forensic analyses of evidence related to IP crimes through continued funding for hardware/software critical for successful investigations; fund fifty percent (50%) of the Digital Forensic Scientist position to work in the Digital Forensics lab analyzing evidence seized by Taskforce officers during IP investigations. 7. Enhance the capability of NCSOS Special Investigations and Forensic Services Group (SIFSG) to support Taskforce investigations. Deploy the Internet and Technical Investigations Center (ITIC)) housed within SIFSG, to conduct advanced online investigations. 8. Ensure deconfliction through improving coordination between federal, state, and local agencies and continued participation in Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) “RISSafe” deconfliction system. 9. Expand ongoing public awareness and education campaigns regarding the dangers of buying counterfeit goods by supporting Taskforce members in joining the effort. NCSOS will conduct a targeted social media public awareness campaign. Funds would be used to buy targeted social media ads and public service announcements. NCSOS plans to continue the promotion of the Verify Before You Buy web-based tool, giving consumers the ability to distinguish counterfeit online pharmacies from legitimate ones.
The application was given priority consideration and submitted verification: (1) to address specific challenges that rural communities face, (2) that who are intended to benefit from the requested grant reside in high-poverty areas or persistent-poverty counties, and (3) that offer enhancements to public safety in economically distressed communities (Qualified Opportunity Zones).