What’s the difference between the two benches shown in this photograph? One is an original artist’s design handmade in the U.S. The other is a knock-off made in a foreign country.
If you have had your original designs stolen by a foreign company, there are several steps you should take immediately:
1. Call a lawyer and purchase a “Cease and Desist” letter. Just the letter, no frills, no additional phone calls for follow-up. Don’t let the attorney blow their nose for you without YOUR approval and an estimate of time and cost for EVERY action, letter, form and call. (They’ll tell you that they don’t work that way… but most will.)
2. Design infringement cases can run into fees of $100,000 or more if YOU aren’t in control. If you do receive a bill that is higher than expected, you can hire a professional to audit the bills. Keeping costs in line is the difference between satisfaction and disaster. Art studios can easily fall into bankruptcy from high legal bills alone!
3. The Department of Commerce’s Intellectual Property Division suggests that you register your designs with Customs in addition to your regular copyright registration with the Library of Congress. Once knocked-off, you can submit a simple letter of complaint which Customs will use to create a “Customs Block,” allowing the government to seize the knock-offs at the port of entry. Registered designs receive top priority.
Ensuring the Future of Craft
Most counterfeiting and consumer deception comes from the simple act of removing a paper sticker that states “Made In China” (or elsewhere). It happens at retail fairs and in small gift shops, where owners and employees often don’t know that they are committing a criminal offense.
The American Made Alliance has been researching and lobbying members of congress to enforce the full intention of the Trade Act of 1930 which requires “Country of Origin Labeling in a permanent and indelible manner.”
Business competition, whether at retail fairs, trade shows, or local boutiques should be honest and fair, not deceptive. Retail store shelves should be filled with a variety of products, not deceptive copies with fraudulent promotional hang tags and labels that prevent consumers from making an informed decision.
As China’s manufacturing strength grows, Congress becomes more and more interested in helping small businesses, like craft producers, to address these issues. Artists, gallery owners and others who support this issue are encouraged to write their Senators and Congressional representatives. Remind them that every time a consumer is duped, we all lose some of the value, integrity and authenticity aspects of American Crafts that artists and retailers have worked so hard to achieve.
The American Made Alliance needs your help to bring this issue to the attention of legislators. You can find out more about this by adding your name to the list of community supporters, find sample letters, or read personal stories submitted by artists and galleries at www.AmericanMadeAlliance.Org. Join the American Made Alliance Facebook group, which provides updates and discussion.