The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority has made interim amendments to its procedures, designed to stimulate work sharing with companies whose products may have been counterfeited. Under the new system, CBP will provide rights holders with visual evidence of seized shipments – showing details from cartons in which the products were transported – to check whether those details match official transport identifiers used by the relevant companies.
In this way, the CBP will be permitted to handle shipping information that is normally covered by the Trade Secrets Act. That information includes serial numbers, universal product codes and stock keeping unit (SKU) numbers that appear on the products’ cartons – whether in alphanumeric or other formats. CBP can also provide intellectual property (IP) owners with product samples and photographs of seized shipments.
CBP spokesman Ian Phillips said: ‘[The interim measure] gives importers seven business days from when goods are detained to present evidence about the authenticity of the merchandise. If the importer does not give adequate evidence within that timeframe, Customs can send a sample to the trademark holder for help in determining whether the goods are legitimate or counterfeit.’
Scope for implementing the procedure was established in the National Defence Authorisation Act, passed in December. Mark Schonfeld, an IP partner at Boston-based law firm Burns & Levinson, said in a statement that the trial arrangement – for which CBP is seeking comments from stakeholders – is ‘a very positive first step’ towards greater cooperation between Customs and the trademark community.
‘Before the interim rule went into effect,’ he said, ‘Customs interpreted the Trade Secrets Act as barring it from disclosing images of – or information about – seized products, or releasing samples to trademark holders.’ As such, he added, Customs notices about a detained shipment with products that may infringe on one or more trademarks have tended to raise more questions than answers. ‘It has been quite difficult to get samples, more information about the importer, the source [of the product], or how large the shipment is,’ he said.
CBP is seeking comments on the interim rule by 25 June. Its website is here