Toys are supposed to inspire play and creativity, but when it comes to counterfeit, it’s anything but fun and games. Counterfeit products are on the rise, and that includes toy knock-offs.
A sting carried out in June of 2017 by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations seized over $121,442 worth of fake toys. The shipment, which originated in China, contained over 284 crates of toys bound for a distributor based in North Carolina. The toys, examined by the U.S. Customs Department, were reported to include trademarks and copyrights registered to Cartoon Network, Apple, and Saban, . Products and trademarks registered to Danjaq LLC, the parent company that owns the rights to the James Bond intellectual properties, were also reported among the counterfeits.
Unfortunately, this seizure, while large, isn’t limited to U.S. trademark holders. In Europe, it’s estimated that counterfeit toys and games cost the legitimate toy industry over €1.4 billion in revenue annually. This amount represents a substantial 12.3 percent of industry sales. Revenue impact is always a concern when it comes to counterfeit goods. Just as alarming are the worries about the impact upon consumer health and safety because many knock offs are produced using unregulated or unsafe materials, including toxic chemicals, dyes and paints.
How does a brand holder, especially one doing business with overseas manufacturers, protect themselves, the reputation of their products, and their consumers?
Start by making sure all trademarks are properly registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and with every country with which you plan on doing trade.
Some brand holders are also including small, unique identifying “secret” markers in their products to differentiate them from counterfeit goods. These secret markers include hidden tags, unique codes, patterns, materials…anything that is known only to the manufacturer.
While most manufacturers are honest and reputable, it’s always a good idea to stay current on exactly who is making your products and how they’re being distributed, especially if your manufacturing plant is overseas.
 This blog post provides generalized information and does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client communication. Each situation is unique and requires consultation with suitable professionals.