The Intersection of Trademarks and Brands: A Dialogue with Famous Brands and Law Enforcement

In today’s fast-paced, evolving retail environment, consumers are faced with more purchasing decisions than ever before. The questions of what to buy and where to buy it have nearly infinite answers. Fortunately, consumers can rely on trademarks as a trusted identifier in the marketplace.

And considering the work happening at the Congressional Trademark Caucus, consumers can be confident that increased trademark protection is on America’s agenda.

This week, GIPC, in collaboration with the International Trademark Association (INTA) and the Congressional Trademark Caucus, hosted a congressional briefing entitled “The Intersection of Trademarks and Brands: A Dialogue with Famous Brands and Law Enforcement.” The briefing served to educate interested stakeholders on the importance of trademarks to American consumers, businesses, and economies, and warn against the dangers of trademark

Speakers included Representatives Ratcliffe and Deutch, co-chairs of the Congressional Trademark Caucus, as well as a panel of brand protection experts, including representatives from NBA Properties, Merck & Co., and Underwriters Laboratories.

The group first determined to define trademarks beyond a legal or administrative context. Trademarks help distinguish brands, and they convey the emotions, reputations, and goodwill consumers attach to those brands. Consumers can identify a trademark on a product or service and quickly construct an informed opinion based on what that trademark means to them. These informed opinions help guide safer, more confident shopping decisions.

But, how is consumer safety and confidence affected when trademarks are counterfeited?

Counterfeiting happens when bad actors fake a genuine trademark with the intention to deceive; it’s a huge problem in the United States and around the world. In fact, counterfeiting is a $461 billion dollar business, and it’s expected to double in value by 2020.

Counterfeiters use stolen trademarks to trick consumers into buying substandard, even dangerous goods. Panelist Ayala Deutsch of NBA Properties spoke of counterfeit apparel prone to rips and reeking of chemicals. Panelist Paul Brown of Underwriters Laboratories recalled counterfeit cosmetics containing harmful toxins, like arsenic, rat poison, lead, bacteria, and mercury that can cause severe physical reactions. And panelist Tony Zook of Merck & Co. sounded the alarm for counterfeit medicines that contain no active ingredient, contain the wrong dosage of active ingredient, or contain a different active ingredient altogether, depriving patients from the treatment they need and jeopardizing their health.

These examples make a shared point: counterfeiting knows no boundaries. And it isn’t a victimless crime.

In order to combat counterfeits, partnerships like those shared at this week’s briefing, will be crucial. Industry, government, and other stakeholder groups must work together to strengthen trademark protections and deter counterfeiters.

Because, as briefing participants agreed – trademark protection and counterfeit aren’t bipartisan issues.

Learn more about trademarks and counterfeit at

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