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New Bill Would Authorize US Customs to Enforce Design Patents

New bipartisan legislation has been introduced to Congress that would authorize US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize imported merchandise that infringes design patents at the US border. The Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019 aims to provide a more timely and cost-efficient tool for enforcing design patents than the existing forums.  

Currently, CBP is empowered to seize counterfeit merchandise or packaging that violates those copyrights, trademarks, and trade names that have been previously recorded with CBP. The Bill would allow CBP to make similar seizures based on recorded design patents. Supporters of the Bill note that counterfeiters recognize that there is a lower risk of seizure if products do not bear registered intellectual property. Such infringers cover up or leave off the intellectual property prior to importation and later remove the cover or attach the intellectual property after the goods clear CBP. The proposed legislation would provide CBP with the authority to seize counterfeit goods regardless of these techniques.

The Intellectual Property Owners Association, International Trademark Association, and Foot Distributors and Retailers of America have all released statements supporting the proposed legislation. If the Bill is enacted, the US will join those countries, such as the EU, Japan, South Korea, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa, who already provide for the enforcement of design patents through customs.

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