Counterfeit goods entering the United States pose challenges for consumers and businesses that need to be addressed by federal agencies that enforce intellectual property rights (IPR), according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Counterfeit goods are hard to spot and, with the growth of e-commerce, it has become even more difficult to identify them. GAO did a test and found that 20 of 47 items purchased from third-party sellers online were counterfeit, highlighting potential risks to consumers and businesses. Further, e-commerce complicates the enforcement efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which stops imported counterfeit goods at the border, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which conducts investigations.
CBP and ICE employ a number of measures to enhance IPR enforcement. However, while ICE has assessed some of its efforts, CBP has taken limited steps to do so. Thus, GAO recommends that CBP take steps to evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement efforts. This could be done by improving its metrics to track the overall effectiveness of its IPR enforcement efforts, evaluating selected activities to enhance IPR enforcement, and developing a process to assess and share information on port-led initiatives.
Additionally, representatives from the private sector say restrictions on CBP’s information sharing limit private sector enforcement efforts. While CBP shares information to the extent allowed under current regulations, the agency has not completed an assessment of what, if any, additional information would be beneficial to share with private sector entities. GAO also recommends that CBP, in consultation with ICE, should assess what, if any, additional information would be beneficial to share with the private sector. Further, CBP should take action to enhance information sharing by, for example, proposing regulatory revisions or requesting additional legal authorities from Congress.
The CBP has agreed with both of these recommendations.