Today, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) applauded the introduction of new legislation in Congress to give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) additional tools to prevent counterfeit footwear from entering the U.S. The bipartisan legislation, Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019, was introduced by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and is in response to hearings this year focused on intellectual property issues where FDRA loudly raised its growing concerns on this issue.
The industry has seen a large increase in counterfeits entering the country aimed at tricking consumers, yet U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lacks the proper enforcement to prevent some counterfeits. Relying on seizures based on just trademark rights is no longer effective. Counterfeiters around the world have become more creative, shipping identical looking products without the trademark and then attaching traditional trademarks after it clears U.S. customs. This legislation would provide CBP the legal authority to end such enforcement loopholes.
“Counterfeit footwear threatens jobs in our industry and puts our consumers’ trust at risk,” states Matt Priest, president and CEO of FDRA. “The bipartisan legislation introduced today will finally give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the additional tools it needs to better identify and seize counterfeits shoes. We applaud these leaders in working together to protect shoe brands and consumers and urge a speedy approval of this legislation by Congress and President Trump.”
Margo Fowler, vice president chief intellectual property officer for Nike, says the proposed legislation further empowers U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help protect consumers from counterfeit products. “It would enable them to identify and seize intended counterfeits that copy Nike’s products protected by U.S. design patents. We appreciate the leadership of Senators Tillis, Coons, Cassidy and Hirono in sponsoring this important legislation.”
Other industry execs applauding the legislation included Mike Jeppesen, president of global operations for Wolverine Worldwide, who says it will fill a significant gap in the United States intellectual property enforcement regime. “Border enforcement of design patents would not only help companies that invest in innovation, but also protect consumers from counterfeits and knockoff products,” he says, adding, “This is an important time to enhance consumer protection as the growth of ecommerce has made it easier than ever to trick consumers into purchasing counterfeits and knockoff products.” Jeppesen notes that a number of other countries (including China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, India and Mexico) already provide for the enforcement of design patents and design registrations through customs. “Evidence shows that this has helped these countries meaningfully stem the flow of counterfeit and knockoff products,” he says. “It is time for the US to implement this proven mechanism for protecting suppliers and consumers.”