Intellectual Property & Competition Law

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News from TRAILBLAZER about trademark, trade dress, trade secret, copyright, false advertising and unfair competition, and right of publicity law.

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U.S. Seeks #Forfeiture of #Infringing #Barbies Nabbed at #Border

This is one example of what recording intellectual property rights with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can accomplish. 

On April 25, 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota announced the filing of a civil forfeiture complaint against Greenbrier International Inc., which does business as Dollar Tree.  The complaint seeks the forfeiture of 21,852 dolls that allegedly infringe a registered copyright owned by Mattel, Inc., which protects its CEO Barbie doll head. 

Mattel had recorded its copyright registration with the US CBP and, as a result thereof, border officers examining a container traveling by rail across the border at International Falls, Minnesota were able to spot and take action against the allegedly infringing dolls in the shipment vaguely marked as “Other Toys” on the manifest.  Upon receiving information regarding the shipment, Mattel reviewed photos of the dolls and identified several features, including the shape of the mouth, jaw and nose that infringed its registered copyright for the CEO Barbie doll head. 

Per the complaint, this is not Dollar Tree’s first attempt to get allegedly infringing dolls across the border.  In 2016, 13,296 mermaid fashion dolls were also seized at the border by CBP for also infringing Mattel’s CEO Barbie doll head copyright. 

Per CBP statistics, in fiscal year 2017, it made 34,143 seizures of goods having an approximate retail value of $1,206,382,219, which arrived by air, land, sea and, as with the infringing dolls described above, by rail.  Notably, toys, amount to only about 1% of all seizures.  Apparel and accessories occupy the top slot in the seizure statistics, amounting to approximately 15% of seizures.  Watches and jewelry are next in line, amounting to approximately 13% of seizures.  What should be a bit scary for anyone who depends on medication is that approximately 6% of seizures are of pharmaceuticals and personal care items. 

Intellectual Property Rights are one of the priority trade issues for the U.S. CBP.  In pursuing that priority, CBP enforces against:

Confusingly Similars: items likely to cause confusion or mistake, or to deceive as to affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to origin, sponsorship or approval of his/her gds, svcs, or comm’l activities;  

Counterfeits: a spurious (false/non-genuine) mark that is identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered mark; and  

Gray Market Goods: a/k/a parallel imports, diverted goods. Articles bearing TM initially applied w/ approval of tm-holder w/ intent of sale in country other than U.S. but good was diverted to U.S. w/o approval of tm-holder. 

  If you would like further information and assistance with recording your intellectual property rights with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, please do not hesitate to contact us at 305-222-7851.