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IPR PROTECTION – Chinese ecommerce platform Alibaba on USTR list for second straight year. 

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) annually releases a report called the Notorious Markets list which spotlights global piracy and counterfeiting. This list is a combination of both online and physical markets where American manufacturers, companies or brands are hurt by intellectual property rights violations. Alibaba’s reaction to their Chinese online marketplace being listed was forceful, but it raises the question about what companies can do to protect their intellectual property rights (IPR).

The 25 online and 18 physical markets around the world cited in the report, formally titled the “2017 Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets”, is available online here. By the USTR’s estimation, imports in counterfeit and pirated physical products are valued at nearly half a trillion dollars, or 2.5% of global imports.

When people think of eCommerce marketplaces, they think of two major players, Amazon and Alibaba’s is, according to the USTR, China’s largest mobile commerce destination and the third-most popular website within China. Taobao pushed back on the US claims that it wasn’t cracking down on IP violators and asserted it closed more than 230,000 vendors for selling IP infringing goods over a recent one-year period.

The important question remains: What can US importers do to help protect themselves when they find counterfeit or IPR infringing goods being brought into the United States? At RIM, we work diligently with our customers to get their trademarks on file with Customs. If we are notified of, or come across, potentially violating merchandise, we notify both the trademark or copyright holder as well as CBP.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refers importers to CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights e-Recordation (IPRR) application system where for $190 per trademark, importers can provide USPTO and U.S. Copyright Office registration numbers and images which are accessible to CBP officers at all 317 U.S. ports of entry.

For US companies who have a greater concern about global misuse of their intellectual property, the U.S. government has also stood up the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, or IPR Center. This multiagency organization employs investigation, interdiction, outreach and training to combat intellectual property theft.

IPR theft is not a victimless crime – a company’s brand could suffer if a person is sickened, injured or killed by a counterfeit item bearing their name. We take potential IPR violations around the world seriously and are ready to work with our clients or potential RIM customers who do not feel that their intellectual property is being sufficiently protected.