In the annual Special 301 report, released this week, the USTR outlines the global state of intellectual property protections and enforcement. The USTR named China, India and Russia to its top-watch list. Algeria, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Kuwait, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela were also named as “priority” watch nations.
Not surprisingly, China’s rampant online piracy, counterfeits and intellectual property and trade-secret theft has the country ranked as the worst offender globally. According to the USTR report, more than 52 percent of the total value of counterfeit products seized at U.S. ports came via China in fiscal 2015.
The USTR did credit China’s recent actions to amend the Trademark Law passed in 2013 and strengthen regulations.
For footwear and apparel manufacturers, infringing products don’t just take away from sales, but also hurt brand reputations, and are especially frustrating as many of the real goods themselves are manufactured in China. As reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection footwear represented 10 percent of all counterfeit seizures.
The American Apparel and Footwear Association, which has prioritized fighting counterfeit goods over the past year praised the release of the study. “Counterfeit goods cost our industry billions of dollars every year,” said president and CEO Rick Helfenbein. “We welcome the U.S. Trade Representative’s release of its Special 301 report today. This annual report spells out the progress or lack of progress in the fight against counterfeits, and other forms of intellectual property theft.”
Additionally Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, said an increasing number of footwear brands are at risk for counterfeit and copycats. “Our member companies devote significant resources to develop cutting-edge performance products, and to protect the value of their brands. These efforts support thousands of American jobs – jobs that are put at risk by counterfeiting and piracy. The economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy has taken on a phenomenal global dimension in the past decade,” he said. “Now more than ever it is vitally important that the U.S. government takes all actions necessary to protect these innovations, designs, brands and images worldwide.”