One of the nation’s toughest anticounterfeiting bills was introduced Thursday in the Florida legislature, targeting manufacturers, distributors and vendors of fake goods.

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

State Attorney General Bill McCollum said during a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., that counterfeits “are not just inexpensive handbags or pirated DVDs….Not only do these goods damage our economy, they can devastate our citizens’ health and well-being.”

Officials acknowledged that Florida has become a major entry point for counterfeit goods, and McCollum, backed by legislators and business groups, wants to establish a zero-tolerance policy.

The bill would create a tiered penalty system based on the quantity of counterfeit product involved, impose tougher sanctions on repeat offenders and increase penalties for products that threaten consumer safety.

Counterfeiters convicted in bodily injury or death cases would face five to 30 years in prison. Individuals convicted of involvement with more than 1,000 fake items, or with a retail value in excess of $20,000, would face as much as 15 years in prison.

Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition and the Florida Chamber of Commerce have joined with elected officials to push for the legislation.

Other states that have introduced new anticounterfeiting measures include New Jersey and Pennsylvania, said Travis Johnson, vice president and director of legislative affairs and policy at the IACC. On the federal level, legislation has stalled in Congressional committee.