Cracking down on counterfeiting

Legislation expands criminal law to specify packaging and labels for the first time.

The Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act (H.R. 32) that passed the House in May is now sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It focuses almost exclusively on product packaging and labels. Its intent is to expand the criminal law so that federal prosecutors will have an easier time going after counterfeiters that manufacture bogus product labels and packaging.

The bill, for the first time, defines counterfeit labels and packaging as targets of the criminal law, and also allows federal prosecutors, again for the first time, to seize the packaging and labeling equipment they used in their crimes.

James Christian, vice president and head of global corporate security for Novartis International AG, Basel, Switzerland, states that counterfeiters are so sophisticated that they "can also make and stamp tablets with company logos and put them in special packaging such as blister packs."

The legislation was amended with a "repackaging exclusion" so that legitimate secondary market products—that bypass a manufacturer's distributor—are unaffected by the bill's reach. How soon Senate action on the bill occurs is anyone's guess. The committee will be preoccupied in the near term with hearings on a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

--By Stephen Barlas, Contributing Editor
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