Monday, October 03, 2011

IP Theft in the News

Here is a news item stating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations special agents raided a number of Florida sites to execute search warrants relating to possible counterfeit goods. In the end, they collected 50,000 counterfeit items with a total retail value of $28 million. That's not surprising. If the government created a flee market and push cart squad, it could find counterfeits with little effort. As a general principal, that is a good thing. Counterfeiting is theft and vendors of counterfeit goods free ride on the value of brands to which they have no claim.

However, every time I hear about about one of these events, I wonder whether any of the goods were actually genuine but gray market products. As a general rule, gray market goods that are not materially different from the authorized products sold in the U.S. are entitled to entry. This is a rule that recognizes that the vendor has been fully compensated in the first, legitimate sale and has no right to prevent subsequent resales as long as consumers are getting what they think they are purchasing. The problem is that gray market goods are often accused of being counterfeit. That puts the importer in the difficult position of having to prove the negative proposition that the goods are not counterfeit. In that circumstance, a small importer will often walk away from the goods. Which can be a big loss for a small entrepreneur.

Which reminds me, On October 1, the U.S., six other countries and the EU signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to help fight this kind of thing. As it is late, I will give a hat tip and link to Patent Baristas for more info. The USTR Fact Sheet on the ACTA is here.

Lastly, when did ICE agents start working for HSI? Just asking. I think I missed that.


John said...

very informative and interesting posts

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, ICE and HSI are actually merging into somewhat of a single unit.

Love your blog!