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Partnering with U.S. Customs to Protect Intellectual Property Rights

iStock_000015712857MediumAccording to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, counterfeiting and fraud cost intellectual property owners more than $1.26 billion in financial losses during fiscal 2012. In addition to the negative economic impact, counterfeit and pirated goods pose a serious threat to the health and safety of consumers. For example, counterfeit products such as pharmaceuticals and electronics are notably manufactured using substandard ingredients and materials, which can potentially be dangerous to a consumers’ health. While counterfeiting is certainly a global issue, rights owners can begin to protect their intellectual property by partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”).

CBP is the U.S. federal agency authorized to detain and/or seize imported goods that infringe on federally registered trademarks and copyrights. Solely registering ones’ intellectual property rights (“IPR”) or trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not engage CBP’s assistance in protecting intellectual property and an accompanying trademark. Rights owners must “record” their federally registered trademarks and/or copyrights with CBP in order for customs agents to enforce the protection of IPR.

Enforcing IPR is a difficult task and requires a collaborative effort on the part of rights owners and CBP. To maximize IPR enforcement, it is important for rights owners and/or their representatives to build a working relationship with CBP personnel. This is accomplished by providing comprehensive information about the recorded IP (e.g., product identification training, list of authorized manufacturers and/or distributors) to assist front line inspectors with infringement determinations. Additionally, communicate with CBP in a timely manner when CBP intercepts a suspect shipment. Rights owners and/or their representatives are also encouraged to share information with CBP in regard to specific companies, individuals and online retailers known to export or import infringing goods.

The key to a successful enforcement program is developing a partnership between CBP and rights owners in the protection of IPR.