New legislation aimed at curbing a surge in counterfeit footwear shipped into the US has been welcomed by footwear retailers and importers.

The bipartisan Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019 has been introduced in Congress, and the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) trade association is urging its speedy approval.

The bill would authorise US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize imports that infringe design patents, giving them additional tools to prevent counterfeit footwear from entering the US. At present, these restrictions are limited to copyrights and trademarks.

The shoe industry has seen a large increase in counterfeits entering the country aimed at tricking consumers, the FDRA says, yet US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lacks the proper enforcement to prevent some counterfeits. 

Relying on seizures based on just trademark rights is no longer effective, the group says. "Counterfeiters around the world have become more creative, shipping identical looking products without the trademark and then attaching traditional trademarks after it clears US customs. This legislation would provide CBP the legal authority to end such enforcement loopholes."

FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest says: "Footwear companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to design, produce, and ship innovative footwear to Americans. Counterfeit footwear threatens jobs in our industry and puts our consumers' trust at risk. 

"We face unprecedented challenges when it comes to protecting our IP and fighting the surge of counterfeit footwear entering the US. 

"The bipartisan legislation introduced today by Senators Tillis, Coons, Cassidy, and Hirono will finally give US Customs and Border Protection the additional tools it needs to better identify and seize counterfeit shoes."

Margo Fowler, VP, chief intellectual property officer at Nike, says the proposed legislation would enable CBP "to identify and seize intended counterfeits that copy Nike's products protected by US design patents."

While Mike Jeppesen, president of global operations at Wolverine Worldwide adds the extension of full border enforcement protection to design patents "will fill a significant gap in the United States intellectual property enforcement regime. 

"Border enforcement of design patents would not only help companies that invest in innovation, but also protect consumers from counterfeits and knockoff products."

He explains that a number of other countries (including China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, India, and Mexico) already provide for the enforcement of design patents and design registrations through customs. 

"Evidence shows that this has helped these countries meaningfully stem the flow of counterfeit and knockoff products. It is time for the US to implement this proven mechanism for protecting suppliers and consumers."