Two days on the heels of World Intellectual Property Day (observed worldwide on April 26th), Jamaica had a celebration of sorts with a counterfeit destruction of epic proportions.
On April 28, 2016, a press briefing was held in downtown Kingston. Participating in the briefing were the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (C-TOC), the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), and the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO). The mood of the briefing was one of a focused determination to fight counterfeits.
On display at the C-TOC’s downtown headquarters were the counterfeit goods that were scheduled to be destroyed later that day. The astonishing array of counterfeit goods ranged from headphones to skin lightening cream to rum and included large quantities of the more typical footwear and clothing items, estimated at 33,000 pairs and 25,000 pieces, respectively. The value of the items, seized over the last 12 months, was roughly estimated at 1.5 billion Jamaican dollars (approximately US $12.4 million). The C-TOC reported that its efforts over the said period resulted in 32 operations, 25 arrests, and 12 convictions.
One of the arrests that attracted media attention was that of business woman Lan Yang, whose multimillion-dollar counterfeit clothing operation landed her a conviction and a fine of 2.7 million Jamaican dollars (approximately US $22,000.00). The value of fake NIKE, ADIDAS, PUMA, and other famous brands of counterfeits found in her possession was estimated at in excess of 50 million Jamaican dollars (approximately US $413,000.00).
At the press briefing, the JIPO’s Executive Director emphasized the importance of trademark registrations. She also offered words of encouragement to brand owners plagued by knockoffs, pointing to the seized goods as evidence that the court system is working.
Indeed, brand owners should be encouraged by this action on the part of the authorities and should note that Jamaican trademark registrations offer protection not just under the Trade Marks Act but also under the Customs Act and the Merchandise Marks Act. Together, these pieces of legislation comprehensively protect brand owners both at Jamaican ports (whether goods are destined for Jamaica or in-transit) and across the island.
The joint address of the C-TOC, the JCA, and the JIPO is testament to the fact that the fight against counterfeits is a difficult one that takes combined effort, cooperation, and commitment. As for the counterfeit destruction, the C-TOC made it clear that the public destruction was deliberate and designed to send a message to those involved in this illicit trade. The C-TOC warned that it will be relentless in further pursuits.
It will be interesting to see the extent to which this message acts as a deterrent to counterfeiters in the future.