Nike Throws Support Behind Legislation to Curtail Counterfeits

It could soon become easier for companies to curtail counterfeits.

A bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate today that would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize products it believes are in infringement of design patents. It has bipartisan support from co-signers and Senators Thom Tillis, Chris Coons, Bill Cassidy and Mazie Hirono.

At present, patent owners must seek a trial with the U.S. International Trade Commission to receive an import ban. But this process can often be slow and expensive, according to Intellectual Property Owners Association vice chair of the industrial design committee Beth Ferrill.

Nike — which is a member of the Intellectual Property Owners Association alongside other companies such as Google, Apple and HP — has also put its support behind the proposal.

“Serving athletes and our consumers is at the heart of everything we do. The proposed legislation further empowers U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help protect consumers from counterfeit products,” Margo Fowler, Chief IP Officer at Nike, told FN. “It would enable them to identify and seize intended counterfeits that copy Nike’s products protected by U.S. design patents. We appreciate the leadership of Senators Tillis, Coons, Cassidy and Hirono in sponsoring this important legislation.”

According to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, roughly 88% of the counterfeit goods in the U.S. originate in China or Hong Kong. However, counterfeits can often be difficult to catch, with product mislabeled, smuggled in underneath other items or with brand markings applied after crossing the border.

Just this past October, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport seized 14,806 pairs of counterfeit Nike kicks — which would be worth  $2,247,680 if authentic. The shoes were incorrectly labels as napkins, which Customs said was “a clear attempt to disguise the illicit cargo.”

A report from the Better Business Bureau showed footwear as one of the top three most-seized counterfeit good categories in 2017, alongside apparel/accessories and watches/jewelry.

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