Buying Counterfeit Goods Online May Preclude You from Trusted Traveler Programs

By Marc P. Misthal

Clients facing problems with online counterfeiting often ask us what they can do to stop the sale of the low-cost counterfeits. One thing we frequently recommend is that trademark or copyright rights, as appropriate, be recorded with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”). Once rights are recorded with CBP, they will monitor shipments entering the country and seize counterfeit goods. CBP cannot monitor every shipment coming into the U.S., but they can and do seize counterfeits, preventing the products from ever reaching their recipient.

Once CBP seizes product, they send a notice to the rights owner with the particulars of the seizure (typically the notice identifies the name of the exporter, the name of the importer, the rights involved, the number of units involved and the port at which the seizure was made). After that it is up to the rights owner to take further action.

Recent reports, however, indicate that there is another consequence for U.S. individuals whose purchases of counterfeit products from overseas are seized by CBP. At least one report has surfaced about an individual who ordered counterfeit products through an online retailer; CBP seized the products and the individual received a refund from the retailer, where he purchased the product. Several months later the individual went to renew his Global Entry status and was denied (Global Entry is a trusted traveler program run by CBP). CBP apparently never confirmed the exact reason for the denial, but they have said that having a violation of customs laws on your record can make you ineligible for trusted traveler programs.

Consequently, rights owners now have more incentive to record their copyright and trademark registrations with CBP since a seizure can result in more than just the forfeiture of the purchased product. And consumers should exercise caution when shopping online, or they can find themselves waiting in long lines at the airport the next time they travel!

This article was originally published on Trademarks + Brands blog.