AnnMarie Highsmith AnnMarie Highsmith
Executive Assistant Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Trade


April 25, 2024


Editor's note: World Intellectual Property Day is April 26, a day to celebrate the contributions of innovators and creators worldwide. It’s also a time to acknowledge the harmful impact of counterfeit goods on sustainable development and how businesses and law enforcement are working together to fight back. 

Imagine this: a counterfeit good for nearly every man, woman, and child in the state of Florida. In Fiscal Year 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized a staggering 23 million counterfeit goods, a figure that speaks volumes.

Intellectual property rights are a priority trade issue for CBP, as the implications extend beyond economic impact to touch American consumers, global communities, and the very health of our planet.

While a cheap fake handbag may seem harmless, counterfeits put our health at risk, line the pockets of criminals, and harm the honest businesses that keep our economy strong. When counterfeit goods become part of the global supply chain, they undercut innovation, a key component of economic growth and job opportunities.  

On this World Intellectual Property Day, it's crucial to acknowledge the harmful impact of counterfeits on sustainable development, which has implications for our entire planet and the people living on it.

Counterfeits Hurt Sustainability Efforts

Counterfeit goods, particularly in the massive quantities that we are seeing, pose a serious threat to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, affecting not just the U.S. but people all over the world. These fakes undermine efforts to promote health, well-being, equitable economic growth, and environmental sustainability.

Many counterfeit goods are made from cheap materials and are not built to last. These goods are likely to end up in landfills and contribute to polluting our oceans and waterways sooner rather than later. This contributes to the degradation of the environment and ecosystems on which the health of the planet depends.

Among the top product categories CBP seized for intellectual property rights violations in FY 2023 were pharmaceuticals, personal care items, sunglasses and eyewear, and consumer electronics. These items not only represent millions of dollars that legitimate enterprises lose out on but also represent health and safety threats for consumers and waste that pollutes our planet and hurts communities worldwide.

How to Help Stop Counterfeits

The good news is there are things we can do, and we all have a part to play in the solution. While CBP will remain unceasing in our enforcement efforts, awareness and diligence amongst industry and consumers play a key role.

CBP encourages industry to record registered trademarks and copyrights via CBP’s IPR e-Recordation program, which provides CBP with additional authority to enforce intellectual property rights on imported goods and facilitates communication between CBP and rights holders. In FY 2023, CBP enforced nearly 20,000 active, recorded copyrights and trademarks through the program.

CBP also works with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through a mutual memorandum of understanding, which enhances our information sharing and bolsters the fight against counterfeit and pirated goods. This partnership, which recently extended the memorandum for an additional five years, allows CBP to exchange valuable insights and practical methods, ensuring we’re at the forefront of intellectual property rights enforcement.

We urge consumers to educate themselves on the dangers of counterfeit goods and how to spot them by visiting CBP’s Truth Behind Counterfeits campaign and the U.S. Chamber’s Shop Smart campaign.

While counterfeits cause harm on multiple levels and pose a significant challenge, if we work together and continue to educate consumers and rights holders, we can make a difference.

About the authors

AnnMarie Highsmith

AnnMarie Highsmith