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WASHINGTON - The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) yesterday endorsed legislation that would strengthen the criminal statute against trafficking in counterfeited goods.
Rep. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.), introduced the bill late yesterday. If enacted, the Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act (H.R. 32) would close existing loopholes in federal law by granting trademark owners remedies that are similar to those already provided to copyright and trade secret owners. Currently, criminals who distribute counterfeit versions of trademarked goods are able to avoid prosecution, to maintain control of their assets, and to continue to profit from their illegal activities. The bill has 21 original bipartisan co-sponsors.
GMA senior director of international trade Sarah Thorn explained industry concern. “In America, many consumers think counterfeit products are limited to knock-off bags and watches sold by street vendors. However, that is not the case.
“Criminals also traffic in counterfeited goods such as brand-name foods, beverages, and consumer products, which exposes consumers to fake products that can jeopardize their health. For businesses, counterfeiting results in the loss of consumer trust as well as an estimated $200 to $250 billion dollars in U.S. sales annually.”
H.R. 32 would also help strengthen international enforcement against counterfeiting, according to GMA. Until the counterfeiting loophole is closed in U.S. law, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has announced that it will not negotiate criminal anti-counterfeiting standards exceeding current U.S. standards in new free trade agreements. According to the World Customs Organization and Interpol, global trade in illegitimate goods stands at roughly $600 billion today, and continues to grow.
Other associations supporting H.R. 32 include the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, the Gas Appliance Manufactures Association, the International Trademark Association, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Retail Federation, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.