COVID-19 News

Iancu: COVID-19 responders need protection from counterfeit PPE

Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), on July 23 called on consumers to fight against counterfeit products, particularly those related to COVID-19.

"We don’t want to unwittingly buy any of the 240 counterfeit brand name face masks that were seized on May 30 by CBP (Customs and Border Patrol). Or the thousands of unapproved or counterfeit coronavirus medications, test kits, and hand sanitizers seized by CBP. Or the fake test kits police seized at a 7-11 in Connecticut," Iancu said. "It is nothing short of grotesque that in the middle of this pandemic—the worst international health crisis in a century—criminals are taking advantage of scared and unsuspecting consumers. Frankly, the last thing our first responders should worry about is whether their PPE [personal protective equipment] is real. Our health and welfare depend on the legitimacy of the products we buy."

To help consumers navigate these challenges, the USPTO launched the COVID-19 Response Resource Center, which includes resources to help identify and report instances of fraud and counterfeiting related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"For example, we teach folks what we call the “four P’s”: Place—are you buying from a trusted source? Price—is the price too good to be true? Packaging—is the packaging “off” or poor quality? Product—does it look right?" Iancu said.

Iancu's comments came during a webinar hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) which also featured the high-profile release of a white paper entitled, “Countering Counterfeits: The Real Threat of Fake Products.”

“When we fight counterfeiting, we have to look at both sides—supply and demand,” Iancu said. “And on both fronts, we have the strong support of the entire Administration. A creative, collaborative, and ambitious public-private partnership can harness the particular strengths and reach of the partners undertaking this important work. Working together – industry and government in a systemic and sustained manner – we can make a real difference.”

Iancu was joined by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) at the NAM event. NAM is the largest industrial trade association in the United States, with more than 14,000 member companies across all 50 states.

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