On September 9, 2020, Meaghan Kent was quoted in IPWatchdog on the increased threat of counterfeits during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act (CGSA) might improve the situation for brand owners.
“The pandemic makes an influx of counterfeits likely for a couple of reasons,” Kent said, noting that social distancing and quarantine edicts have pushed many consumers to choose online shopping over brick-and-mortar retail, increasing the risk that foreign counterfeiters will be able to sell infringing products directly to U.S. consumers. Furthermore, factory closures during the COVID-19 shutdown have created significant supply chain issues. “The same issue applies to any product. If there’s a supply chain that can be hurt by shutting down manufacturing facilities, there’s a risk of counterfeiters,” said Kent
One way in which Congress could act to improve the prospects of brand owners would be to pass into law the CGSA, which would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discretionary authority to seize imported goods which infringe upon a U.S. design patent registered with the agency. According to Kent, while the CBP already enables IP owners to register copyrights and trademarks for enforcement outside of ITC exclusion orders, adding design patent enforcement through congressional passage of the CGSA would serve an important purpose for brand owners.
When brand owners register trademarks with the CBP for enforcement, those firms often offer training for CBP agents to explain what the marks cover and how to recognize counterfeits. “With the CGSA, brand owners could train CBP officers to look for the shape of a product and recognize counterfeits even if they doesn’t have branding on them,” Kent said.
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