USPTO Campaign on Combatting Pirated Products

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2021


The U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently sent notices to several stakeholders and copyright holders regarding their implementation of a National Campaign on Consumer Awareness. This notice aimed to seek suggestions from stakeholders on the proper implementation of the said campaign to combat the trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods.

According to a document released by the Federal Register, the daily journal of the United States government, the USPTO sought information from intellectual property rights holders, online third-party marketplaces, third-party intermediaries and other private sector stakeholders on the development of this national campaign as a public-private partnership.

Background of the National Campaign

In early 2020, the Department of Homeland Security released a report to the President of the United States titled “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods”. This was in response to a Presidential memorandum on the aforementioned topic and among the actions identified was the establishment of a National Consumer Awareness Campaign.

This National Campaign encompasses all types of trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods including online piracy. According to the Copyright Alliance, online services play a major role in educating the public on the risks and costs of piracy and with that offered suggestions to the USPTO to help implement this campaign.

The Copyright Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest and educational organization representing the copyright interests of over 1.8 million individual creators and over 13,000 organizations in the United States, across the spectrum of copyright disciplines.

The Copyright Alliance is dedicated to advocating policies that promote and preserve the value of copyright, and to protect the rights of creators and innovators.

One of the main goals of this organization is educating stakeholders on the value of copyright and the risks associated with copyright infringement through background materials and resources on their website, engagement with different stakeholders, social media campaigns geared towards the public, to name a few.

According to a statement released by The Copyright Alliance, “we believe that more coordinated campaigns and partnerships led by federal, state and local governments under the guidance of the USPTO and U.S. Copyright Office would help to reach a broader audience and ensure all consumers are aware of the dangers and harms associated with copyright infringement and other forms of intellectual property theft.”

Risks of Online Piracy of Protected Works

Each year, billions of dollars of economic losses and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs are results of the global online piracy of copyright protected works. The risk of online piracy also affects consumers through the spread of malware, phishing scams, and identity theft. Piracy

subsists in part due to the fact that many consumers simply don’t understand the dos and don’ts of accessing copyrighted works online. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Copyright Alliance notes that there has been an increased demand for easily accessible entertainment through streaming videos and music services, eBook and audiobook platforms, video game portals, and many other digital resources.

While there are legitimate content and services available, the pandemic has resulted in more people turning to illicit services to access pirated content. Pirate site traffic has had a sharp increase in traffic as reported around the world. With that in mind the Copyright Alliance reiterates that it is absolutely crucial that consumers are aware of the lasting harms caused by online infringement to creators and to themselves and the importance of copyright law and legitimate content to the resurgence of the U.S. economy and employment.

The Copyright Alliance fully supports the establishment of the National Campaign on Consumer Awareness and has submitted their comments to the USPTO including the importance of engaging with copyright holders and online service providers especially social media companies to develop uniform, straightforward and agreed-upon educational materials for consumers. In specific, the Copyright Alliance their suggestions as follows:

  • Educating the public on the direct and indirect risks and harms associated with sales of counterfeit and pirated products
  • Strategies to ensure consumers make informed purchasing decisions
  • Public service announcements geared towards social media users
  • Methods to identify false and misleading information on e-commerce pages
  • Alerts for high-risk products and automated warning describing health impacts
  • “Red flag” indicators for suspicious listing on e-commerce platforms
  • Incentives to empower consumers to participate in monitoring, detecting, and informing platforms and users of counterfeits.

Status of the National Campaign

As of writing, the USPTO is still reviewing suggestions given by different stakeholders to see how they fit into their national campaign. And while no concrete plans have been established and released to the public, there are several options that have already been considered including public service announcements directed to social media users and an establishment of educational curricula for school implementation.

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