Background

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is being urged to take additional actions to improve the enforcement of intellectual property rights with respect to imported goods. The recommendations detailed below were adopted at a recent meeting of CBP’s Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee in support of previous recommendations concerning the sharing of detention information, CBP seizures, and photographic standards. For more information on these recommendations, please contact ST&R attorney and COAC co-chair Lenny Feldman at (305) 894-1011.

Detention information. COAC recommended that CBP automate the sharing of detention information and product and trademark photographs and images. COAC notes that CBP inspectors already take shareable images when appropriate at the time of inspection, primarily to transmit to import specialists to make IP determinations. Currently these images may also be shared prior to detention with IP owners (redacted) and importers (generally only upon request and after detention but unredacted). COAC said CBP should provide these images (1) to importers at the outset of the seven-day response period when CBP suspicions are triggered by something seen on the goods or their packaging, (2) to IP owners promptly following seizure, and (3) electronically. COAC also proposed to work with CBP on possible enhancements to its image sharing capacity as well as the potential of differing standards for small packages moving through the mail or express environment.

Seizure process. COAC recommended that CBP (1) combine the first six or seven steps of the current 25-step seizure process through technology advancements such as mobile hardware and software for CBP officers, (2) migrate as many paper processes to electronic processes as possible, including transmitting electronic seizure notices to rights holders and importers, (3) designate a single reference number that can be used to track a shipment all the way through the exam/detention/seizure process, and (4) increase staffing at international mail facilities to shorten the seizure process and increase enforcement.

Photographic standards. COAC recommended that CBP partner with brand holders to share and provide photographic standards guides to aid CBP officers in taking required photographs. These guides should define specific requirements relating to image file types, such as minimum standards for product, interior, and exterior packaging and label photos, and acceptable delivery methods via electronic means. COAC also recommends that CBP develop a web application that guides the photo taking process, verifies quality, and creates standard formats for images to simplify information sharing with importers and rights holders.

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