As we find ourselves in one of the darkest periods of recent memory, when our online world is our reality; now is the best time to take a look at where enforcement against counterfeit products stands.
There has been a significant number of seizures and inquiries by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) relating to the entry of counterfeit products including those that impact public health and safety.
Counterfeit goods are mostly found on the stand alone sites, mass merchandise platforms and close in/neighborhood sales sites. We have been busy with takedowns and buys throughout the last few months on the latter by working with a dedicated group of local investigators who have the necessary contacts and resources. Just as legitimate online retail commerce has increased, so too have the counterfeiters come to rely on web-based sales. When tourists and local buyers are missing, counterfeiters must find a way to sell or perish. This does not mean, however, that brick and mortar counterfeiting options have disappeared; rather, they are evolving and still pose a threat to brands. We have been able to take a few cases to arrest against retail vendors as well as those on Craigslist, OfferUp and LetGo. While there are limitations, law enforcement’s interest in IP remains strong.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and CBP acted immediately to address the importation of counterfeit personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid related products. HSI is leading a coordinated effort to not only seize violative products and funds, but to make arrests and build cases for criminal prosecution. In that regard, anti-counterfeiting work has taken on new urgency and the federal law enforcement agencies have risen to meet the challenge.
One of the greatest impacts has been on the brand protection departments of trademark owners. Entire departments have been eliminated or culled as the severe economic ramifications from the closing of stores worldwide have impacted the brands’ ability to develop and fund anti-counterfeiting strategies. With brands facing a multitude of counterfeiting issues, it is important to retain some form of enforcement strategy especially in the online space. The number of threats and sites seems to grow exponentially and has to be addressed to the extent possible from dedicated specialists interacting with peers and working with law enforcement contacts.
How are we doing five months later? We are still sorting through this as Covid-19 convulses society and the economy. With resources stretched thin and counterfeiters persisting in their efforts, enforcement in the age of the pandemic requires doing more with less and maintaining brand value and integrity for a post-pandemic world of enforcement where the altered landscape will present unique challenges.
Brian W. Brokate
Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP.
665 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
(212) 705-9808 Direct
(212) 688-5151 Phone
(212) 688-8315 Fax