On Tuesday, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) and Congressman Steve Chabot (OH-01) introduced H.R. 4216, the Foreign Counterfeit Prevention Act. The legislation allows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to exchange important information with rights holders in order to protect intellectual property (IP) rights and to uphold the integrity of trade.
Each day thousands of counterfeit products come through our nation's borders and ports of entry. Given the sheer volume of fraudulent products and the alarming sophistication of counterfeiters and pirates, it is often difficult to tell the real from the fake. When counterfeit goods successfully enter the U.S., American workers who make and design the legitimate goods lose.
"Right now, CBP officers are on the front lines of trade enforcement, but they are not allowed to share information with the people most knowledgeable about the authenticity of their products--the right holders, "said Rep. Poe. "Instead, they are faced with the nearly impossible task of inspecting all of the counterfeit and potentially dangerous goods -- from pharmaceutical drugs to movies, blow dryers and video games - to determine what is genuine and what is counterfeit. We are setting them up for failure. This broken system is hurting American designers and manufacturers."
"As American companies struggle in this difficult economy, it is critical that we in Washington do what we can to protect the intellectual property and trademarked goods that sustain them," said Rep. Chabot. "Every fraudulent product that passes into our country takes a chunk out of a real American business, ultimately costing us jobs and further damaging our economy. This bill will close the gap between CBP and the American companies themselves."
For many years, CBP routinely sought the assistance of trademark and copyright owners to authenticate suspected counterfeit or pirated products detained at the border. Unfortunately, after a questionable legal interpretation of the Trade Secrets Act, CBP directed field staff in 2008 to redact all identifying markings and codes before sending a digital image to the right holder to authenticate the product.
H.R. 4216 provides a permanent remedy to this serious enforcement deficiency by clarifying that it is not a violation of the Trade Secrets Act for CBP officers to provide information and samples, including bar codes and identifying marks, to the right holder. It also appropriately includes pirated goods and circumvention device violations. This legislation assures that CBP can continue to seek useful input from right holders to interdict dangerous counterfeit products before they enter the U.S. market. Likewise, the information sharing authorized by the bill ensures that genuine goods held for examination by CBP will be promptly identified as such, so that legitimate shipments will not be unnecessarily delayed from reaching the consumer markets in the U.S.