Counterfeit products that pose public health concerns

“CBP spends considerable resources to prevent counterfeit luxury goods from entering the U.S. market [because]in addition to the obvious issue of brand protection, transnational criminal organizations will frequently produce such goods to finance their illicit activities.

From left to right: Beth Jenior, Sabrina Keller, Amy Hsiao and Jeni Zuercher

During the final day of IPWatchdog LIVE in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, a panel of attorneys discussed issues surrounding “dangerous counterfeits,” which are counterfeit products that pose health risks to consumers. Panelists began with a brief overview of how U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) identifies and seizes counterfeit goods. The panel also highlighted the role played by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in identifying dangerous counterfeits in conjunction with CBP.

Initially, panelists noted that although intellectual property rights are private rights, political considerations such as public safety prompt the government to take steps to ensure that counterfeit products do not enter the market. market. For example, if CBP were to allow low-quality, burn-prone, counterfeit headphones to enter commerce, US consumers could be seriously harmed. Additionally, CBP expends considerable resources to prevent counterfeit luxury goods from entering the US market. Panelists explained that the reason for this is, in addition to the obvious issue of brand protection, that transnational criminal organizations will frequently produce such goods to finance their illicit activities. By cutting off this revenue stream, CBP may be able to hinder criminal activity more broadly.

Speakers were asked how companies can work with the US government to ensure that dangerous goods do not enter the mainstream of commerce and that brand integrity is upheld. CBP panelist Beth Jenior noted that “if you want to protect your branded products and have infringing versions seized by CBP, you must have a registered trademark and file a registration with CBP.” These are known as electronic records and can be completed on the CBP website. Additionally, if a patentee wants CBP to prohibit infringing imports, the owner must go to the International Trade Commission (ITC) and obtain an exclusion order, then present it to CBP, who will enforce it. afterwards.

The discussion shifted to overseas markets, with a focus on China and other Asian countries. One panelist noted that last year the Chinese government prosecuted 16,000 people for counterfeit products, more than 90% of which were related to brands. Panelist Amy Hsiao of Adsero IP recalled her childhood in China and the fact that counterfeiting was known to be so prevalent in the country that she and others would avoid buying cosmetics and vitamin supplements for fear of encountering counterfeit products containing substandard or even dangerous ingredients. . However, she noted that the government was taking steps to try to tackle some of the counterfeiting. For example, counterfeit products in China in categories such as food safety, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and surgical masks can be criminally prosecuted under the country’s “marketing law.”

Next, panelists discussed some of the most notable counterfeits they encountered, including children’s toys containing high levels of phthalates and heavy metals, pet food containing deadly toxins, and faulty electrical products. prone to combustion. The panel also discussed the lab and toolkit the CPSC uses to identify these goods, including specialized XRF guns, which are frequently used to measure heavy metals in goods at US ports of entry.

Although the United States has a robust system for tracking down and confiscating counterfeit products, panelists acknowledged that the systems in Canada and Mexico are not as robust. This often leads to illicit importers attempting to import their goods to one of the United States’ neighbors and then sneaking them across land borders. Panelists expressed hope that these bordering countries will soon put more robust systems in place to help combat this problem.

Photo by Logan Murr

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