Protecting Your Brand: Five Cost-Effective Customs & Border Protection Tools to Stop Counterfeit Goods at the Border
With the ever-evolving world of brand protection, it may be easy to overlook some of the strongest tools available for protecting a brand. We are often drawn to the latest software or technology to stop counterfeits from making their way into the US. However, these may be part of a broader strategy that includes the tools Customs & Border Protection (CBP) makes available. If you are protecting a brand and have a tight budget, please take a look at some lower cost opportunities.
Fundamental to any effort is the registration of your trademarks with PTO. Once you are registered, your brand protection journey has only just begun. Take a look on iprs.cbp.gov to determine if you have any recorded trademarks (or copyrights). If you do not, begin the CBP e-recordation process immediately. For a small fee ($190 per mark, per class), you can record you mark with CBP. This affords additional protection at the border and violative goods stand a better chance of detention and eventual seizure.
- Product Guides
Recordation alone is not enough. Be prepared to develop training materials that CBP Officers and Import Specialists may use to become aware of your product and learn some quick ID tips that can be applied in the field. Training materials need to contain the trademarks and recordations along with contact information and key details on your products. The guides may be provided to CBP for online distribution or directly to personnel during live training events.
To get your brand to remain visible and in the minds of CBP personnel throughout US ports, it is important to conduct training whether virtual or live. While the current pandemic has paused much of the in-person training, there are virtual sessions available directly with CBP or through organizations like the IACC (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition). Training is a way to keep CBP updated and aware of brand developments. In the right circumstances, it also provides a chance to make one-on-one connections and to learn and understand what is happening day to day at the port level.
Now that you have created a guide and trained, what happens next? You may begin to receive inquiries from the ports requesting assistance in determining if particular imported goods are indeed counterfeit during the detention stage. CBP may provide you with images and some basic information when they reach out to you during the detention stage. Please answer these inquiries as quickly as possible; within 24 hours. In order to perfect the seizure, they often rely on brand representatives to point out three key inconsistencies in the images provided. Your answers will assist them in their determination. It is CBP that makes the ultimate decision as to the violative nature of the goods at issue.
- Notice Letters
If all goes well and your assistance has allowed CBP to determine it will seize the goods, a few days to several months later, you will receive a seizure notice electronically or in the mail which lays out significantly more information than you were provided at the detention stage. What you do with the details in the letter is a function of personnel and budget. Having importer and recipient information along with quantity may allow you to locate large sources or recipients of goods for possible criminal or civil action. You may wish to go a step further and send cease and desist letters to all importers to put them on notice. In all cases you should maintain the key information in a data base.
Working to thwart the importation and sale of counterfeit goods is never an easy task. These steps provide ways to work with CBP to support their efforts and improve your success at brand protection. Take advantage of recordation and training as affordable and proven ways to take your enforcement budget further.
For questions about this process, email Angelo E.P. Mazza at firstname.lastname@example.org.