Understanding The Canada Border Services' Request For Assistance Program - Part 2: One Click & Ship
Earlier this year, we provided an overview of the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) Request for Assistance Program. The program provides an opportunity for owners of registered Canadian trademarks and copyrights to record those rights with the CBSA to prevent importation and distribution of counterfeit goods in Canada. The CBSA identifies shipments of all sizes and regardless of quantities ordered as part of the program. One shipment can play a pivotal role in uncovering information pertaining to larger networks and suppliers in the counterfeit trade.
The developments of new online marketplaces, including shoppable social media outlets, have played a significant role in the growth and continuing global threat of counterfeits even as brands have moved towards vigorously marketing themselves on social media and collaborating with the appropriate online marketplaces.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the risk of consumer susceptibility to bad actors has become unparalleled. Advertisements for PPE, specifically non-medical face coverings, are copious. Face coverings have become mandatory in a number of regions and counterfeit networks continue to capitalize on this new, necessary item, among others.
With travel restricted, and physical distancing measures bringing new challenges to traditional bricks-and-mortar commerce, many industries and business have felt they have no choice but to embrace a shift to e-commerce to survive. Likewise, the scale of “bad actor” websites, profiles, and storefronts linked to the same illicit network has become overwhelming. It has become more difficult for consumers to differentiate between legitimate retailers and bad actors. In addition to impersonating a brand’s website or using their intellectual property in a sponsored advertisement, large networks are targeting an increasingly anxious and economically uncertain consumer base.
Consumer demand for low cost, easily accessible, and quickly shipped items purchased over the internet has surged, making counterfeiting even more irresistible. The multi-faceted ecosystem of e-commerce enables counterfeit networks to operate efficiently. It is a relatively easy process to create an account, distribute sponsored advertisements and include an external link to a third-party marketplace. Moreover, it is easy for a consumer or local supplier on a reputable social media outlet or marketplace to feel a false sense of security when they “add to cart”—and not check if the seller is, in fact, legitimate.
For example, TikTok has recently come under fire for facilitating quick promotion and easy in-application features that allow users to find and shop for counterfeit and unauthorized goods. Keywords (like hashtags) and algorithms play an important role in the functionality of many social media Apps, including TikTok and Instagram. However, these “features” can be a “bug” for rights holders since they can make it difficult to locate, report and remove infringing material. For example, one search for “#designermasks” on TikTok locates videos with this tag that have over 300,000 views.
All is not lost, though! Rights holders with the proper tools can connect platforms, search tags, and link storefronts, to terminate a number of accounts and sellers at once. Such approach can be effective when dealing with private groups and messaging applications with built-in functionality that enables users to communicate. Moreover, as law enforcement and agencies become more sophisticated, and devote more resources to detain, seize and examine shipments, it forces bad actors to modify their behaviour and makes it more difficult for criminal networks to circumvent detection and import counterfeit goods detrimental to the health and safety of Canadian consumers.
By the Numbers
Since May, the CBSA has encountered over 76 suspected shipments containing counterfeit goods. 48 detentions occurred in July and August. Additionally, 17 new RFA’s have been filed, bringing the cumulative total to 224 RFA’s on file with the CBSA covering over 3,225 registered trademarks and copyrights.
The RFA program is an important tool for rights holders to have in their brand protection plan. It is a common goal for brands to curb counterfeit goods and remove them from physical and online marketplaces, and the border remains a great place to start.