Red Points outlines how to report counterfeit products in the United States, and why you should do so if you see a counterfeit product.
The illegal counterfeit industry is damaging to consumers, the economy and global brands, not to mention its own often-exploitative means of cheap production. If you’ve found a counterfeit product, whether it’s an imitation of your own intellectual property or not, there are government agencies and groups that will help you to report infringing products. It’s as simple as a quick note to the HSI, IPR, FTC, ICC, CBP, FDA and the CPSC. Got that? No?
Contact the concerning authorities
To report a counterfeit product, you should firstly contact Homeland Security and the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center. Following this step, there are several other agencies that you can report IP crime to, depending on the type of product counterfeited, whether the product is sold online and if the fake product could be dangerous.
If you purchased the counterfeit product, find advice on getting a refund through the Federal Trade Commission. You can also make a claim about the fraudulent transaction with the FTC, who take legal action against companies that make deceptive claims about their products.
Did the criminal IP activity take place online?
Send a complaint to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. To do this you may need information such as the IP address of the retailer, which you can obtain from domain-locating websites such as IP Location. If the IP activity in a store or elsewhere, you should contact your local FBI office to open an investigation.
If applicable, contact the platform where it was found
Note that many e-commerce sites also have their own complaint system, and if you have seen or bought a counterfeit item on Amazon or eBay the sites have set procedures you should follow. Amazon has dedicated forms for buyers and sellers to report infringement, and the company is taking steps to provide long-term protection, too, through their newly-launched Amazon ‘Brand Gating’ service.
In a comparable service that aims to benefit both buyers and sellers, eBay hopes to control counterfeiting through eBay Authenticate, but the service which is launching later this year will initially only cover big-name brands. For now you should open a case through the eBay Resolution Centre, and the site covers many refunds with the eBay Money Back Guarantee.
Is it possible that the infringing product has been traded across borders?
File a suspected trade violation with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Specific information here regarding the violator and the country of export, while not mandatory, will be highly beneficial to your cause.
If the counterfeit item is an FDA-regulated product, ensure you alert the FDA to suspected criminal activity that involves drugs, food and other FDA-regulated goods. An unregulated FDA item is potentially highly dangerous to consumers, and the FDA will follow up with an investigation where necessary. If the product has caused harm to yourself or others it’s also worth filing a report with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC detail reports of unsafe products on their website which are also sent on to any manufacturers that may be named. The CSPC may also conduct further investigations into dangerous products where they deem appropriate.
By working with services against counterfeit goods and providing information on counterfeits to law enforcement agencies and consumer-oriented organisations, you can help to curb the harmful and exploitative counterfeiting industry that is damaging the economy on a global scale.
If your own products are being counterfeited, it is imperative you take action as soon as possible so as to avoid further damage to your brand. You can work with e-commerce sites such as Alibaba, Amazon and eBay who all have a responsibility to respond to problems with counterfeiting on their selling platforms, and in this directly impact sellers of counterfeit products.