3 February 2020Edward Pearcey

Trump executive order targets online counterfeiters, e-commerce platforms

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday, targeting both the sellers of counterfeit goods and the e-commerce platforms they pass through, as his administration seeks to drastically reduce the number of counterfeit goods entering the US.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been instructed to look at “appropriate measures, consistent with applicable law” to ensure large e-commerce platforms are not trading in counterfeit goods.

The order also seeks the identification of e-commerce companies selling a large volume of counterfeit goods, and then their addition to a list of offending companies. Particular attention will be given to repeat offenders, who will be subject to more intense scrutiny.

Amazon regularly features products from third-party sellers, making the legitimacy of the products on sale sometimes hard to verify. Moreover, a small proportion of these sellers are actively selling counterfeit goods.

The US Postal Services is expected to work with the DHS and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to implement the new rules.

“President Trump has ensured that intellectual property protection and enforcement against pirated and counterfeit goods are a priority in America’s trade relationships,” said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, via a statement issued immediately after the order was given.

“The trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods is a scourge that causes significant harm to our workers, consumers, intellectual property owners, and economy, [and] the federal government and industry partners are working together to combat illicit trade,” he continued.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) sets the highest standards of any “US trade agreement for strong, effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights,” said Lighthizer. “Similarly, the US-China Phase One agreement includes strong intellectual property protections and effective action against pirated and counterfeit goods,” he continued.

Just a week ago, the US authorities also tried to ramp up the pressure on China with the release of a DHS report, ‘ Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods’, which revealed the dangers of large volumes of counterfeit goods entering the US from China.

Listing “immediate actions” to be taken by DHS, the report said US law enforcement bodies will now be actively looking for fake goods and pursuing “civil fines and other penalties against these entities”, with warehouse and packaging facilities being some of the first targets.

The report was prepared following President Trump’s April 2019 Memorandum on Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods. The majority of fake goods seized by US customs officers come from China, according to US government data, with the value totalling billions of dollars.

The rise of online shopping platforms such as Amazon has led to an increase in the sale of fake goods in the US market, as unscrupulous sellers pass on counterfeit products as genuine items. Amazon has strict policies against the sale of counterfeit goods and has stepped up efforts to combat the problem, through tools such as its Brand Registry.

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