From Left to Right: Heather McDonald (INTA's Anticounterfeiting Committee Chair, Baker & Hostetler LLP, United States), Bruce Foucart (Director, Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center - Homeland Security Investigations) and Dani Marti (U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at The White House)
On December 12, 2016, INTA’s Washington, D.C., Office, in collaboration with the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hosted a briefing entitled “Counterfeits and Consumer Safety During the Holiday Shopping Season” on Capitol Hill. With more than 65 attendees including Hill staff and brand owners, the event focused on education and outreach about the challenges posed by counterfeit goods.
The event kicked off with remarks from Daniel H. Marti, the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), who announced the release of the United States’ Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement. The Joint Strategic Plan (JSP) serves as a roadmap for the U.S. government’s work and engagement focused on counterfeiting and IP enforcement. Mr. Marti noted that the JSP seeks to “define the problem and create opportunities to solve the problem with discrete goals and objectives that are measurable.”
Next, Bruce Foucart, the Director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, spoke about the Center’s work coordinating IP enforcement activities in the field and in the developing outreach and training activities. Mr. Foucart noted the increase in seizures of counterfeit goods (in 2015, 28,000 seizures with a $1.35 billion dollar manufacturer’s suggested retail price if the goods were authentic) following the Center’s investigations. He presented practical suggestions for holiday shoppers to educate themselves about counterfeit goods, including:
- If the price of the good is “too good to be true,” then it may be a counterfeit good.
- If there is no phone number or contact information for contacting customer service when purchasing goods online, then the “store” might be selling counterfeit goods.
- Don’t buy goods that usually need a prescription, such as contact lenses, from a store that does not require the prescription.
The event then featured an IP stakeholder panel with representatives from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canon USA, Inc., and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), which was moderated by INTA’s Chair of the Anticounterfeiting Committee and Partner at BakerHostetler, Heather McDonald. The panel focused on outreach and education activities targeted at consumers as they do their holiday shopping. The panelists emphatically pointed out that counterfeiters are focused solely on making money and are not at all interested in the health and safety of consumers.
Unfortunately, counterfeit products affect all sectors and can cause immediate and direct harm to consumers, including fatalities. For example, counterfeit electronic products could malfunction and cause a fire. The UL representatives discussed the “UL” certification mark as a sign of safety when purchasing products. During the holiday season, consumers often purchase electronic goods (for both adults and children) that carry the “UL” certification mark, including holiday lights and decorations, electronic toys, and tools. The panelists reminded the attendees to examine products before buying them and to pay attention to price.
Canon has developed an advertising campaign that includes videos and a dedicated website to educate consumers about the dangers of buying counterfeit Canon products. Canon is now partnering with the NCPC on additional outreach to consumers using videos.
In conclusion, the panelists encouraged consumers to be “good shoppers” and do their research and examination to ensure that they are buying authentic goods with regulated and monitored health and safety standards instead of counterfeit goods that can cause direct and serious harm to consumers of all ages.