In the ever-evolving world of trademark protection, it can be easy to overlook some of the most powerful tools available to protect a trademark. We are often drawn to the latest software or technology to prevent counterfeits from entering the US. However, these can be part of a broader strategy that includes Customs & Border Protection (CBP) tools. If you’re branding a trademark and you’re on a tight budget, take a look at some more cost-effective options.
Registering your trademarks with PTO is fundamental to all efforts. Once you have registered, your journey to trademark protection has only just begun. Check it out iprs.cbp.gov to determine if you have any registered trademarks (or copyrights). If you fail to do this, begin the CBP electronic recording process immediately. For a small fee ($ 190 per grade per class), you can record your grade with CBP. This provides additional protection at the border and infringing goods have a better chance of arrest and eventual seizure.
- Product guides
Recording alone is not enough. Prepare to develop training materials that CBP officials and import specialists can use to familiarize themselves with your product and learn some quick ID tips that can be applied in the field. Training materials must include the brands and records, as well as contact information and important details about your products. The guides can be made available to CBP for online distribution or directly to staff during live training events.
In order for your brand to remain visible in all US ports and in the minds of the CBP employees, it is important to conduct virtual or live training. While the current pandemic has paused a large part of the personal training, there are virtual sessions directly at CBP or through organizations such as the IACC (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition). Training is a way to keep CBP up to date and to be aware of brand developments. Under the right circumstances, it also provides an opportunity to make personal contacts and learn and understand what is happening on a daily basis at the port level.
Now that you’ve created and trained a guide, what happens next? You may receive inquiries from the ports asking for help to determine if certain imported goods are indeed counterfeit during the detention phase. CBP can provide you with pictures and some basic information when they reach you during your detention period. Please answer these inquiries as soon as possible; Within 24 hours. To perfect the seizure, they often rely on brand reps to point out three major inconsistencies in the images provided. Your answers will help you in your decision. The final decision on the infringing nature of the goods in question is made by CBP.
- Notice letter
If everything goes well and CBP has been able to determine with your help that the goods are being seized, you will receive a seizure notice a few days to several months later, electronically or by post, which contains much more information than you received when you were arrested. What you do with the information in the letter depends on staff and budget. Having information about the importer and consignee along with the quantity can help you locate large sources or consignees of goods for possible criminal or civil action. You may want to go a step further and send all importers warnings to notify them. In any case, you should maintain the most important information in a database.
It is never easy to thwart the import and sale of counterfeit goods. These steps provide opportunities to work with CBP to support their efforts and improve your success in trademark protection. Use recordings and training as an affordable, proven way to keep growing your enforcement budget.