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IACC Legislative and Policy Round Up

July 13, 2021

Mexican President Announces Plan to Sell Seized Goods

In late June, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced his intention to begin selling goods seized by the country’s customs agency through government-operated markets. 

Though details regarding the plans have been slow to materialize, the “Tianguis del Bienestar” project would reportedly make seized goods – including counterfeits – available at low prices, with the purported intent of serving lower-income populations in the country.

The proposal obviously raises significant concerns with respect to both the rule of law and consumer safety, and we’re currently engaging with IACC members in Mexico, as well as our counterparts in the U.S. government to determine an appropriate course of action.

House Judiciary Committee Hosts SHOP SAFE Roundtables

In early July, the House Judiciary Committee hosted a series of roundtables to seek stakeholders’ views in connection with the SHOP SAFE Act, currently under consideration by the Committee.  These roundtables were scheduled to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to provide additional input and to answer questions posed by Committee staff following the Subcommittee hearing that took place in late-May.  Video of that hearing and copies of witnesses’ written testimony is available here

As many of you are aware, that legislation seeks to mandate a range of best practices by e-commerce platforms as a pre-condition for extending a safe harbor against contributory liability for trademark counterfeiting offenses by third-party sellers on those platforms. The best practices outlined in the bill include a number of practices recommended by the IACC in its prior submission in support of the Department of Homeland Security’s Report to the President concerning the trafficking of counterfeit goods online. The IACC remains committed to working with the Committee and other stakeholders to ensure the implementation of reasonable, commonsense steps to ensure the availability of meaningful enforcement in the online market, for the benefit of legitimate manufacturers and retailers, as well as consumers.

The current text of the House bill (HR 3429) is available here, and we welcome member feedback on the legislation.

A companion bill, S 1843 has been introduced in the Senate, but no hearings or markups have been scheduled in that chamber, to date.

E-Commerce Platform Engagement

We’ve recently received outreach from three e-commerce platforms in Southeast Asia – Coupang (South Korea), Tokopedia (Indonesia), and Bukalapak (Indonesia) – each of which, the IACC has previously highlighted in our annual comments to the U.S. Trade Representative in support of the agency’s Notorious Markets List. 

Our most recent submission to USTR, incorporating members’ feedback on each of the platforms, is available here.

To date, we’ve had an initial conversation with representatives from Coupang’s brand protection team; discussions with Tokopedia and Bukalapak are currently scheduled for late July. We’d welcome member input regarding priority concerns related to IP enforcement on any/all of the platforms, which may be helpful in guiding further discussions.

CBP 2021 Virtual Trade Week

U.S. Customs and Border Protection hosted its “2021 Virtual Trade Week,” between July 20th – 22nd , with a program including numerous sessions of interest to rights-holders. 

Among the topics covered were recent developments related to CBP’s 21st Century Customs Framework (21CCF), “Changing Expectations in E-Commerce,” CBP’s “Trusted Trader” program (CTPAT), and its Section 321 Pilot program.

Representatives repeatedly stressed the importance of effectively leveraging data as a means to addressing IP violations; however, the IACC remains concerned about the lack of reported progress in finalizing several pending rulemakings that would significantly improve CBP’s ability to share information with, and obtain effective assistance from, private sector partners.

Recordings of each of the sessions, and copies of the handouts distributed to participants are available here.

New U.S. Dept. of Justice ICHIPs Deploying to Hong Kong, Bucharest

The IACC recently had an opportunity to meet with two new International Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (ICHIP) attorneys from the Department of Justice, who are preparing for their upcoming deployment to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, and the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania. As you may be aware, the DOJ’s ICHIP Network places experienced federal prosecutors in consular posts around the world to provide on-the-ground assistance on a variety of IP and cybercrime issues.

We are in the process of preparing additional briefing materials on priority concerns faced by rights-holders in each ICHIPs region of coverage, and would welcome IACC members’ input regarding challenges you’re currently facing throughout jurisdictions in Asia or in Southern/Eastern Europe.

We’re also looking to help the ICHIPs hit the ground running by providing a list of key points of contact from your teams in both regions, to facilitate direct outreach from the ICHIPs to your teams.

CBP Announces IPR Seizure Statistics for Fiscal Year 2020

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced top-line numbers detailing efforts by the agency and its DHS partner agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), to enforce IP rights at U.S. borders during Fiscal Year 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2020). 

In total, CBP and ICE-HSI seized over 26,000 shipments on the basis of IPR violations, with a total MSRP valued in excess of $1.3 billion.  During the same period, ICE-HSI arrested over 200 individuals, obtained 125 indictments, and received 98 convictions related to IP crimes.   

Handbags and wallets took the top spot in terms of the number of seizures effected (17%); while seizures of watches and jewelry seizures comprised the largest share by value, totaling over $435 million. 

The summary published by CBP also noted substantial seizures of “counterfeit, unapproved or otherwise substandard COVID-19 related products” including nearly 180,000 Food and Drug Administration-prohibited COVID-19 test kits, 12.7 million counterfeit face masks, and over 38,000 Food and Drug Administration-prohibited chloroquine tablets.

Comprehensive statistics detailing the full range of IP enforcement activity by the agencies is expected to be published in the coming weeks, and will be available here.

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