WASHINGTON — The hard-fought war waged by U.S. apparel and footwear brands against counterfeiting is about to get a little help via reinforcements from the White House and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
U.S. industry groups expect relief from a newly enacted bill that provides funding for new FBI officers and establishes a cabinet-level position within the White House to coordinate the federal agencies’ anticounterfeiting initiatives.
Despite the efforts of companies trying to stymie the proliferation of bogus apparel, footwear, handbags and accessories, U.S. Customs’ seizures of counterfeit goods have hit record highs this year on the West Coast.
China is the largest producer of fashion counterfeits that infiltrate the U.S. market. U.S. Customs seized $40.3 million in bogus footwear, of which China accounts for 96 percent, in the first half of the year and $15.7 million in counterfeit apparel, which accounted for 14 percent of the seizures in the first half of the year.
The bill signed by President Bush last Monday provides increased resources for Department of Justice programs to combat intellectual property theft, stiffen criminal and civil penalties, create a new enforcement officer and provide more funding to hire additional FBI officers.
The timing was right for the passage of a more comprehensive, high-level intellectual property effort, said Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University and author of “Counterfeit Chic,” a legal and intellectual property blog.
The possibility of increased financial resources from the federal government for enforcement efforts is important to rights owners, who look to make their own enforcement efforts more efficient in down times, she noted.
“In tough times people think harder about enforcement. When times are flush you have more dollars to throw at enforcement,” Scafidi said.
She said the legislation indicates a level of commitment to intellectual property enforcement that has not really been seen to date. Establishing the position of a so-called “copyright czar” as a cabinet-level position is as much a symbolic gesture as a practical one designed to help eliminate redundancies and centralize discussions about intellectual property rights, Scafidi said.
However, there is still a lack of consensus on the new White House post.
Brian Brokate, a partner with Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, who specializes in intellectual property and represents a host of fashion and accessories companies, said, “If there is one potential downside or criticism of [the legislation] it would be that it seems to create these unnecessary levels of federal bureaucracy, which may slow things down.”
But he noted the bill overall will provide new enforcement tools for businesses.
“I think the best thing the bill does for trademark owners, whether in the apparel or footwear industries, is in the area of statutory damages,” Brokate said.
The bill increases the statutory damages in a fundamental trademark case to a maximum of $200,000 from $100,000. In cases of “willful trademark counterfeiting,” the maximum damages would be increased to $2 million from $1 million.
“To the extent the amount of statutory damages are higher, they have a more chilling effect on those who counterfeit and think twice in terms of either going into counterfeiting or, once sued, continuing it,” said Brokate.
Kurt Courtney, manager of government relations at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said, “Overall, it improves the current laws on the books and it will definitely help our members in the trademark area. There is certainly going to be a lot more enforcement because the bill provides 10 additional FBI agents, for example, to do just intellectual property investigations,” he said.
Courtney also said the new intellectual property rights coordinator post will be “beneficial” because it will channel the coordination of several agencies “under one roof.”
@pantone announced their Color of the Year 2018: Ultra Violet. Nearly 20 months after the musician Prince’s death, fashion is having a purple moment. Varying shades of purple appeared on spring or fall runways, from @christopherkane to @calvinklein. @gucci’s Alessandro Michele bathed his fall runway in ultra violet-colored light at one point. Pantone 18-3838 is meant to “push the boundaries of what inspires us to look upward and outward to the future.” #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@badgalriri’s @fentybeauty launch in September was a massive success on social media, powering $72.9 million of earned media value, according to Tribe Dynamics. The brand’s foundation offering sparked conversations about diversity in beauty, launching the growth of emerging influencers and propelling the brand’s support on social media. Today, #fentybeauty won Launch of the Year at the WWD #BeautyIncAwards. (📷: Chema Moya/EPE-EFE)
@marianna_hewitt has become one of the most influential content creators in the beauty space, with almost 800,000 Instagram followers and a newly launched skin care line called @SummerFridays. Today, she was awarded Influencer of the Year at the WWD #BeautyIncAwards. (📸: @sophiachabbott )
As shopping behaviors evolve, the retail experience must follow. Head over to retail experts @colliersinternational’s Knowledge Leader series to read more about the shift in our shopping era. #colliersretail #lovecolliers
@prada opened a pop-up club, called Prada Double Club, in collaboration with German artist Cartsen Höller at @artbasel Miami. Last night, guests – including @youngparis, @ritaora and even Miuccia Prada herself – gathered in a former ice factory where the pop-up is housed for a performance from @wyclefjean. Go to WWD.com for full coverage on all the exhibits, parties and more at #ArtBaselMiami. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
@louboutinworld and @disney are making magic once again, creating a set of shoe designs for the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Louboutin designed a pair of shoes for each of the film’s four female leads: Rey (@daisyridrey), Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (@lauradern), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Rose Tico (@kellymarietran). The shoes will debut on Saturday at the L.A. premiere of the latest episode. #wwdfashion
Today at the #BeautyIncAwards 2017, WWD will be joined by beauty leaders from around the world as we honor this year's most innovative people, products, brands and places. Follow along here and on Twitter for live coverage from the exclusive event. #wwdsummits (📷: @elizaflorendo)
Exclusive: Beauty superinfluencer @marianna_hewitt is launching her first-ever skin care brand with her business partner @laurengores. Their new line Summer Fridays, which will be sold exclusively at summerfridays.com starting in January, is launching with just one product – a hydrating cream Jet Lag Mask. “We wanted to focus on one product that was amazing,” said Hewitt. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Michelin star-rated chef PJ Calapa marks his first solo endeavor with today’s opening of @scampinyc –– the new Southern Italian restaurant located in Manhattans’ Flatiron District. The upscale yet welcoming environment matches the menu, which includes two types of scampi: traditional Italian langoustines in butter and the Americanized version with shrimp over pasta 🍤 - pictured here. #wwdeye (📷: George Chinsee)