Federal bill seeks to boost counterfeiting enforcement

| 8/15/2007

Counterfeit products pose not only economic problems to business, but carry serious threats to the safety and welfare of consumers who use them.

“It’s not just about protecting American businesses,” Paul Foley, vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, told a trade group in 2005. “These parts can kill and injure innocent victims.”

At best, counterfeit parts often fail prematurely, causing downtime and increasing maintenance costs. At worst, failed sub-standard brake, steering and suspension parts cause crashes.

The Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act was signed into law in March 2006.

That legislation strengthened penalties for counterfeiters and gave prosecutors new tools to stop those who defraud American consumers. The law requires courts to order the destruction of all counterfeit products seized as a part of a criminal investigation and requires convicted counterfeiters to turn over their profits, as well as any equipment used in their operations

Now, the Senate is considering another piece of legislation, S522, the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Act.

The Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Act seeks to create one organized force to combat intellectual property theft, which for the first time would include the Department of Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The legislation also seeks to establish an international task force of foreign countries to track and identify intellectual property criminals while encouraging reliable trading partners to join the task force.

If the bill is approved and signed into law and the task force is created, the task force would have to report to Congress to ensure cooperation and to measure progress.

The Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Act is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The automotive parts industry – including trucking – has long been a victim of counterfeit products because of the theft of intellectual property.

Bootleg items can be almost anything anymore. In fact, CBSnews.com reported that the automotive industry has turned up enough counterfeit products to actually build a car.

Years ago, counterfeiters stayed away from the heavy-duty market because of the narrow supply chains and the industry’s overall familiarity with the products, according to MEMA information on counterfeiting. But, since counterfeiters have gotten better at forging their fakes, it’s getting tougher to tell the real thing from the phonies.

Truckers now have to watch out for everything from lights that aren’t quite bright enough or could cause an electrical fire to brake pads made of compressed grass clippings.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor