INTA, Congressional Trademark Caucus Caution on Counterfeits During Holiday Season

Published: December 16, 2020

INTA, in collaboration with the bicameral, bipartisan Congressional Trademark Caucus (CTC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center, co-hosted the 5th Annual Congressional Holiday Shopping Season briefing on December 2.

Held just after Black Friday online sales shattered records, the virtual briefing focused on collective U.S. government intellectual property (IP) enforcement efforts and private sector anticounterfeiting initiatives, emphasizing the importance of increased education and outreach to consumers about the dangers posed by the persistent presence of counterfeit goods online. It highlighted the implementation of strategies and technologies to protect consumers and brand owners from the harmful impacts that counterfeit products pose to the U.S. economy and to consumers’ health and safety.

The briefing, which drew more than 160 attendees, pointed out INTA’s continued work with all stakeholders to elevate counterfeiting issues among policy makers. These include brand owners, the CTC, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and other federal agencies.

Bruce MacPherson, INTA’s Chief Policy Officer, opened with remarks about the Association’s advocacy initiatives globally, noting: “As we hold this briefing during the holiday season’s Cyber Week, INTA acknowledges the Association’s increased dedicated resources and attention to our continued collaborative work with all stakeholders to help stem the rise of counterfeit products being sold in all forms of commerce, including online, with education and outreach to consumers of all ages.”

The briefing featured a special address from Representative Martha Roby (R-2nd-AL), who serves as the current Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet as well as the CTC co-chair. Rep. Roby introduced the bipartisan legislation, “Shop Safe Act of 2020” (H.R. 6058). On the eve of her retirement from Congress, Rep. Roby noted her interest in this legislation to have “Congress work together to stop the proliferation of counterfeit goods sold online.”

Further, Rep. Roby stated: “My legislation might not pass in this session of Congress, but I hope that Congress could pass meaningful legislation to help protect consumers from dangerous products.”

INTA thanks Rep. Roby for her leadership in Congress, and the CTC specifically praised her advocacy for strong IP frameworks.

Michael Ding, who serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Trade at the DHS, then spoke about federal efforts to address counterfeiting issues with a specific focus on online and e-commerce platforms.

“We have made progress since last year with increased interagency collaboration and increased private sector engagement,” noted Mr. Ding.

He also discussed the government’s interagency efforts and collaboration with the private sector to help address the issue of counterfeit goods in the marketplace, including through information sharing.

Mr. Ding reported that the DHS is in the process of previewing draft legislative proposals to address the challenges presented by counterfeit goods, including a focus on “summary forfeiture provisions and increased opportunities for injunctive relief.” He also said that the DHS is planning to provide formal guidance to Congress in February 2021, as required by the White House Memorandum focused on counterfeit and pirated goods.

The briefing also included a panel of brand owners who discussed the importance of steadfast brand owner efforts to address counterfeiting through policing of their brands online and equipping consumers with information about the dangers of counterfeit products.

The panel featured Michael Moore, Assistant General Counsel, Senior Director, Trademarks and Copyrights at Mattel, Inc., and a member of the INTA Board of Directors; Carolina Giuga, Director, Government and Public Affairs for the Americas at LEGO Group; and Robert Diznoff, Senior Manager, Public Policy at Amazon. It was moderated by Philip Warrick, IP Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property.

During the panel discussion, Mr. Moore noted that “brand owners have a duty to police their own brands, and with the growth of e-commerce, this burden has increased immensely. Mattel has risen to this challenge especially as everyone, including grandma and grandpa, have to feel comfortable buying toys online.”

Mr. Moore further explained the potential danger to health and safety presented by counterfeit products to consumers, including counterfeit toys, which have been found to contain “excessive levels of chemicals known as phthalates, which in high amounts may be harmful to children.”  

Ms. Giuga noted that “a growing number of consumer brands are experiencing an uptick in fake websites claiming to sell original products often at very low prices. These sites are usually promoted on popular social media sites via ads or posts, and often look genuine.”

At Amazon, Mr. Diznoff said, the company is “focused on working with consumers and sellers to prohibit counterfeit goods.” He outlined Amazon’s commitment to ensuring that only authentic and safe products are offered in Amazon’s stores, including “robust seller vetting, industry leading brand protection tools that help remove counterfeits before a customer can ever see them, and increased collaboration with government officials like the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to hold bad actors accountable.”

Further, the panel highlighted the need for consumers to be “smart shoppers” on all fronts. Specifically, consumers should be encouraged to research and examine online purchasing processes by reading product reviews and scrutinizing the price before purchasing goods to ensure that they are indeed buying the authentic goods from sources they know and trust. Additionally, consumers should engage with brand owners to explore authorized retailers and confirm supply chains.

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

© 2020 International Trademark Association