Sen. Menendez Calls for Crackdown on Counterfeit Gowns Shipped into U.S.

Sen. Menendez Calls for Crackdown on Counterfeit Gowns Shipped into U.S.

Knockoffs cheating local businesses, consumers, economic growth

CALDWELL, NJ - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today sent a letter to the head of the federal agency tasked with protecting the intellectual property rights of American manufacturers to urge authorities to immediately crackdown on the proliferation of counterfeit prom and wedding dresses shipped in from overseas, destroying small businesses, ripping off consumers and hurting our local economy.

"Chinese counterfeiting of American-designed and branded products is a major concern for a variety of U.S. businesses, and sadly it appears to be getting worse," wrote Sen. Menendez, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to Director Lev Kubiak of the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center). "The domestic prom and bridal dress industry is increasingly under threat from Chinese dress manufacturers and websites that sell counterfeit goods directly to U.S. consumers."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that 93% of intellectual property-infringing products seized in 2013 originated in China and Hong Kong, resulting in an estimated $1.6 billion loss to the U.S. economy. Often, these knockoffs are shipped in packages marked "gift" to skirt customs inspection and avoid paying appropriate duties.

"The effects of this direct-to-consumer sale of counterfeit goods negatively impacts companies, consumers, and taxpayers alike. American companies that invest in the design, marketing, and manufacturing, and distribution of prom and bridal dresses are losing sales to Chinese firms that flagrantly violate U.S. law," Sen. Menendez continued.

Local manufacturers are having their unique designs stolen and their images used online to falsely market lesser-quality knockoffs made overseas, damaging their reputation, stunting their ability to grow and hire more workers, and cheating their customers

"Illegal counterfeiting threatens to destroy the entire American apparel industry," said Stephen Lang, CEO of Ewing-based Mon Cherie Bridals. "I am pleased that Senator Menendez is working with the apparel industry in this fight. Hopefully, federal policy can be enacted to protect the ability of legitimate apparel manufacturers and retailers to operate without the fear of illegal competition."

The Senator visited "Say I Do" Bridal Boutique in Caldwell, a small, family-owned business that has been adversely impacted by the influx of designer fakes being sold online to unassuming customers.

"Competing with these online dealers peddling cheap designer knockoffs is a constant struggle," said the shop's owner, Adrienne Castellano. "They are stealing money out of my family's pocket, ripping off my customers and turning what should be a bride's greatest moment into her worst nightmare. I want to commend Senator Menendez for working toward protecting each of us from illegal counterfeiters."

Sen. Menendez called on the IPR Center and the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator to focus upcoming enforcement actions on websites and their operators that distribute these counterfeit goods.

The full text of the letter follows and can be downloaded here .

October 3, 2014

Mr. Lev Kubiak
Director
Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center
2451 Crystal Drive, STOP 5105
Arlington, VA 20598-5105

Dear Director Kubiak:

I write to express my concern regarding increased imports of counterfeit prom and bridal dresses from China and request that the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) focus upcoming enforcement actions on websites and their operators that distribute these goods.

As you well know, Chinese counterfeiting of American-designed and branded products is a major concern for a variety of U.S. businesses, and sadly appears to be getting worse. U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that 93% of IP-infringing products seized in 2013 originated in China and Hong Kong.

The domestic prom and bridal dress industry is increasingly under threat from Chinese dress manufacturers and websites that sell counterfeit goods directly to U.S. consumers. These operators frequently use marketing imagery pirated from U.S. designers to advertise their products and portray them as authentic. Furthermore, when shipping the items to U.S. consumers, the Chinese firms often mark the package as a "gift", skirting customs inspection and avoiding the payment of applicable import duties.

The effects of this direct-to-consumer sale of counterfeit goods negatively impacts companies, consumers, and taxpayers alike. American companies that invest in the design, marketing, manufacturing and distribution of prom and bridal dresses are losing sales to Chinese firms that flagrantly violate U.S. law. Consumers who purchase these counterfeit dresses online often have no way of knowing that they are inauthentic and have little recourse when they finally receive the inferior product. The use of pirated imagery lulls the customer into thinking they are purchasing an authentic article and returning any ill-fitting, incorrect or poor quality items to China for a refund or replacement is practically impossible. Finally, intentionally categorizing the products as gifts to avoid duties and Customs inspection undermines the full and fair enforcement of our customs laws, deprives American taxpayers of much-needed revenue and places American firms at a competitive disadvantage.

Although I am aware that the prom and bridal dress industry has pursued legal action and obtained domain name takedowns for infringing sites, the industry cannot be left to tackle this problem alone. I therefore ask that the IPR Center focus its efforts on tackling the rampant proliferation of counterfeit goods in this industry.

Sincerely,
Robert Menendez

CC: Howard Shelanski, Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, White House

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