April 25, 2023
Director of Brand Protection and Customer Trust, Amazon
Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner of Trade, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Senior Counsel for Enforcement, Office of Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Anna Dalla Val
Director, Global Brand Relations, Amazon
Executive Vice President, Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness (CCMC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Vice President, Center for Technology Engagement (C_TEC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Vice President, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senior Advisor to the President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Counterfeiting has become a prominent issue within the U.S. and across the globe. In the past few years, there have been notable changes to consumerism and an increased risk of purchasing counterfeit products through e-commerce sites — a risk present to this day.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Best Practices to Combat Counterfeiting event, government leaders and industry experts discussed ways to how public-private partnerships can aid in efforts to stop counterfeiting in its tracks.
Counterfeits Present Both Economic and Health and Safety Issues
According to John Leonard, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, counterfeits present both an economic hit to other companies and a health and safety issue to consumers.
“The pharmaceutical issue is huge,” he said. “We seized, in this last fiscal year, over $165 billion in pharmaceutical goods and personal care items. Studies have shown that 96% of pharmaceuticals in this space are in conflict with U.S. laws, and 89% of illegal pharmacies don't require a prescription.”
He stressed how dangerous it is to invest in “cheaper, supposedly ‘legitimate’ pharmaceutical goods” that are being promoted across the globe.
“We've done quite a lot to stop that from coming across our borders,” Leonard added.
The Private and Public Sectors Are Coming Together to Combat Counterfeiting
As the leading e-commerce company in the U.S., Amazon is committed to addressing and spreading awareness about the global challenge of counterfeiting.
Alyssa Betz, Director of Brand Protection and Customer Trust for Amazon, explained counterfeiters deprive brand donors of their value and intellectual property, and they compete unfairly with honest entrepreneurs.
“Counterfeited products can harm consumers, and criminals that engage in counterfeiting can be associated with transnational networks that are also involved in trafficking and narcotics, in arms, in persons, and in wildlife,” Betz said. “Unfortunately, we know from recent research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that counterfeiting can go largely unpunished in many jurisdictions around the world.”
Betz added that it’s challenging to coordinate effective responses to counterfeiting, and many even believe these are “victimless crimes that do not warrant significant attention or action.”
Thankfully, she noted, there’s good news: “Retailers, brands, and other industry stakeholders are increasingly coming together with governments to better understand the problem and find ways to stop it.”
Betz then offered three best practices for combating counterfeiting through private-public partnerships.
“First and foremost, we can make bold changes in how we work together across the private and public sectors to stop counterfeiters,” she said. “Secondly, we can collaborate to share information to identify bad actors and hold them accountable … Third, and finally, we must constantly innovate to ensure that our best practices remain effective and are at the cutting edge of what's possible.”
Public Awareness Is Crucial When Addressing Demand
Caridad Berdut, Senior Counsel for Enforcement, Office of Policy and International Affairs at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), noted the importance of supply and demand in addressing the issue of counterfeiting — and that “the way to address demand is through public awareness.”
One way the PTO has aimed to raise this public awareness is through the development of the “GoForReal” campaign, in partnership with the National Crime Prevention Council. The messaging encourages young consumers to “buy smart” by purchasing real brands instead of counterfeit products.
“This year, we were at the Daytona ,” Berdut said. “We partnered with NASCAR, and there was actually a car with the GoForReal campaign wrap [that] competed.”
Additionally, this campaign is not just limited to the U.S., as the PTO has shared materials with governments across the globe to expand its reach. Berdut noted that Mexico, using the U.S.’s material, developed its own GoForReal campaign and even created a competition to decide on its mascot.
“We also do regular consultations with our inter-agency colleagues,” Berdut said. “We talk regularly about what we're doing on public awareness, and we share each other's ideas because, of course, everyone has limited resources.”
“Why reinvent the wheel?” she asked rhetorically. “Use what you have and share it so that others can use it, too.”