The Precious Metals Association of North American (PMANA) has announced the formation of a national coalition to “protect IP rights against foreign counterfeiting operations”. A representative tells World Trademark Review that the organisation has already begun discussions with influential members of Congress and the Trump administration to strengthen federal level efforts to tackle foreign counterfeit operations.

The launch of the coalition was announced this week, with PMANA stating that “the counterfeiting problem has expanded over recent years due to increased purchases of knock-off products from e-commerce sites such as Alibaba”, directly result in US businesses experiencing “a direct loss of sales, goodwill, irreparable damage to their corporate brand, and additional expenditures on protecting and enforcing their property rights”.

The focus for the coalition will therefore be addressing these concerns at the federal level, namely lobbying senators, congressman and key members of the Trump administration to implement stronger measures to tackle fakes entering the US market. Leading the effort will be Paul A. Miller, chairman and CEO of influential Washington DC lobbying firm Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies. Speaking to World Trademark Review, Mitchell Moonier, a representative for the coalition and a policy analyst at Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, expanded on why the coalition was convened. “Many industries struggle every day to protect their interests against these operations: counterfeit auto parts fail, counterfeit pharmaceuticals make people sick, counterfeit toys harm children, and counterfeit bullion financially harms the US Mint,” he says. “Before this coalition formed, we have all been fighting our own separate battles, and have only recently come together to work towards broader goals. This means that we are now meeting with members of Congress to present our revised collective goals and creating a long-term sustainable strategy based on their feedback. In addition to our presence on the Hill, we are opening discussions with Customs and Border Patrol and the Intellectual Property Rights Center for future collaborative opportunities.”

While the PMANA serves members of the precious metals industry, this new anti-counterfeiting coalition is open to all affected parties, Moonier confirms. “After reaching out to other industries that have been engaged in this fight for years, we decided that this wasn’t an endeavour for PMANA to independently pursue. Therefore, we want to attract industries – both big and small – that have been affected by counterfeiting operations, especially IP associations. While our trades may be different, we know that we have common issues that we can collectively resolve. If there are lawyers, former administrative and legislative staff that are willing to work with us, we would love to include them too. Ultimately, PMANA has the resources and Washington presence to lead on combatting foreign counterfeiting operations and that’s why we decided to form this coalition and pull other industries together to help leverage the support, knowledge and expertise on this issue.”

A natural question to ask is why the PMANA didn’t partner with an existing organisation – such as fellow Washington DC based anti-counterfeiting coalition the IACC – instead of forming an entirely new one. The answer, Moonier responds, comes down to money. “One of the barriers to small associations, like ourselves, to joining coalitions like IACC is the cost,” he argues. “Those fees support a number of resources that we have been able to pool together from coalition members – without anyone having to spend a dime. So as it stands, all of our coalition’s accomplishments have come without having to spend money on resources that other coalitions’ fees would normally go towards.”

Demonstrating this drive for collaboration, Moonier confirmed that the coalition “would love to work together” with the IACC if it too was interested. But for now, this new anti-counterfeiting coalition is on a membership drive, and Moonier is confident that it has “the experience and legislative team in place to take on this issue”, adding: “Our members have the experience and expertise to make substantial change occur, and [our] much broader based coalition is critical to getting results. In fact, we are already seeing that in the meetings we’ve had and the support we are getting from the Hill. Furthermore, since the Trump Administration has made it a top priority to pursue new or updated trade agreements, this is a great opportunity to strengthen proposals at the federal level. Ultimately, this issue can only get resolved if we all work together; the more we work independently, the more we simply spin our wheels and the counterfeiters will win at our expense.”

Tim Lince

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