Industry Updates

Better Together: The U.S. Customs Donations Acceptance Program is a Win-Win for Brands and Consumers

Published: October 21, 2021


Becki Lee Arnall Golden Gregory, LLP Atlanta, Georgia, USA Emerging Issues Committee—Blockchain Subcommittee

Counterfeiting is not just a brand problem or a reputational threat, it is a public health and safety issue. The COVID-19 pandemic made this clear. As of September 23, 2021, U.S. Customs has seized more than $54 million in counterfeit goods related to the pandemic. Despite these successes, bad actors are still producing and shipping such problematic counterfeits as subpar protective gear, fake pharmaceuticals, and dangerous cleaning products, around the world. The ability of U.S. Customs personnel to stop these shipments is only as good as the information and technology in the agency’s possession.

Thankfully, many companies with rampant counterfeiting problems have developed devices for authenticating products, from test strips for chemical products to QR codes, serial numbers, and proprietary scanners that can provide more information on the source or makeup of a product.

Since 2017, U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has entered into five intellectual property rights (IPR) partnerships, with four new proposed partnerships in the planning and developing stage. One of these is the CBP’s Donations Acceptance Program (DAP). Designed as a way for the agency to partner with private companies and boost enforcement efforts against counterfeit products, the DAP was first introduced in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and was implemented through the Code of Federal Regulations (19 CFR § 133) in 2017.

Through the DAP, private companies can provide Customs technology and equipment to use at ports of entry and can provide Customs officers and import specialists with training on how to operate the equipment. Often U.S. Customs will invite Homeland Security Investigations to the training sessions, so that the agents can use that knowledge in the field. U.S. Customs also has the authority to seize shipments that are coming through the U.S. with a final destination in another country, so the program can benefit partners around the globe.

The DAP Public Page provides more information on the program as well as application guidance. Even during the pandemic, DAP partners have been able to deploy enforcement tools and technology to CBP Officers and Import Specialists while maintaining effective safety protocols. Through one DAP partnership alone, U.S. Customs has been able to seize more than $1.5 million worth of counterfeit goods (based on the MSRP value of comparable genuine products) in just two years.

U.S. Customs works with each brand partner on a customized DAP Agreement and stays in constant communication with the company during the development and life of the partnership. Due to the specialized needs of the brand and the nature of the technology involved, each partnership is unique. Some products require a visual review or scan of codes, marks, serial numbers, or other indicia on hangtags, whereas other brands need more robust and complex assistance from U.S. Customs because they are working to protect consumers against threats to their health and safety, in addition to protecting their IP rights.

It is essential that brands speak directly to DAP personnel to design a customized plan, because each company’s enforcement needs are different. Brand owners interested in a DAP partnership with U.S. Customs can contact the DAP.

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.

© 2021 International Trademark Association