INTA Stresses Importance of IP at African Economic Conference 2017

Published: January 15, 2018

On December 11, INTA, in collaboration with the Global Innovation Policy Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hosted a congressional briefing titled “Counterfeits and Consumer Safety During the Holiday Shopping Season.” The briefing featured government speakers and representatives from the toy and apparel sectors discussing current issues they face dealing with counterfeits, especially in the area of online shopping.

The speakers tackled the growing problem of counterfeiting and provided advice to help holiday shoppers avoid purchasing counterfeit goods. INTA also shared information about its trademark and counterfeit products education and outreach exhibit, which INTA launched in November and which is currently on display at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum (NIHF) at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

John P. Leonard, who serves as the Executive Director of the Trade Policy and Programs from the Office of Trade at the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, kicked off the event by discussing his agency’s initiatives to increase awareness and education about the dangers of counterfeit goods. This year, CBP created an innovative messaging and educational campaign including posters and education tables at specific airports for travelers during the holiday season.

William Ross, Deputy Director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, spoke about the Center’s work coordinating IP enforcement activities in the field in addition to developing outreach and training activities. Mr. Ross noted the importance of educating consumers about the direct consumer harm caused by counterfeit products and his office’s work in coordinating global enforcement efforts.

Next, the briefing featured an industry expert panel moderated by INTA Board Member Brian J. Winterfeldt, Principal of Winterfeldt IP Group, with panelists Rebecca Mond, Senior Director of Federal Government Relations at the Toy Industry Association, and Christina Mitropoulos, Government Relations Representative at the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA). The panel focused on insights for consumers on how to avoid counterfeit products during their holiday shopping and examples of the range of dangers to consumers presented by counterfeit goods. They pointed out that counterfeiters are focused solely on making money and are not at all interested in the health and safety of consumers. Consumers often seek out discounted prices-particularly during the holidays. Unfortunately, counterfeit items may be the “offerings” from these discounted online sites and retailers.

The panel then provided some practical suggestions for holiday shoppers to educate themselves about counterfeit goods including:

  • For online shopping, it was suggested to review the website for customer reviews and that if the price seems too good to be true, then it could be a counterfeit product.
  • 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.

In conclusion, the panelists encouraged consumers to be “smart shoppers” and do their research and investigate, 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.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2018 International Trademark Association