Michael De Biase

Among its other duties, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has the daunting task and responsibility to search and seize products that are counterfeit or otherwise infringe the intellectual property rights of original goods manufacturers. This is accomplished through CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights Recordation System. As the name suggests, trademark and copyright owners record their intellectual property rights with CBP and CBP keeps records of such recordings via this system, which can be accessed online at http://iprs.cbp.gov/. Using this system, an importer can determine if any of the products that it is importing actually violate the intellectual property rights of somebody else. However, there is a big problem with this system that can cause CBP to wrongfully seize goods, thereby inflicting substantial monetary damages and significant delays in delivery times.

Intellectual property rights are not absolute and can therefore be challenged and cancelled through the U.S. federal court system. When a trademark is cancelled, the U.S. district court has to notify and direct the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to remove the trademark registration from the USPTO’s registrar. Until CBP is notified that the trademark has been cancelled, CBP will continue to seize products that potentially infringe the rights of the now cancelled trademark. This causes products to be wrongfully seized, and, in turn costs the importer tens of thousands of dollars as well as significant delays.

To avoid falling victim to this situation, you must contact an attorney. An attorney can perform the proper legal research to determine whether your shipment contains products that are likely to be seized for infringement of intellectual property rights. In such an instance, the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” really holds true.