Deborah Cohn on a year of progress for the Trademark Caucus
Deborah Cohn has been busy since starting as INTA’s Senior Director of Government Relations in March last year. “We are trying and succeeding in raising the visibility of trademark issues and INTA on Capitol Hill,” the former Commissioner for Trademarks for the USPTO says of her role.
She particularly notes the progress made with the Congressional Trademark Caucus (CTC). The CTC was founded in the 113th Congress in 2014 to educate Members of Congress and the general public about the role of trademarks.
Last year, INTA joined Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Chris Coons, Representative Suzan DelBene and Representative Randy Forbes in announcing the relaunch of the CTC in the 114th Congress. “At this time last year the Congressional Trademark Caucus was fairly new,” says Cohn. “It had four members, which were the four co-chairs. Now there are 19 members. We are hoping to get many more than that but that’s a significant increase. These are members of Congress who agree that trademarks are important and that the public and Congress need to be educated about them.”
In the past year there have been several events associated with the CTC. Three of those took place in April: a CTC briefing on the impact of top level domain expansion on trademark enforcement and consumer protection, participation in the program on the Hill around World IP Day, and a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing led by Senator Grassley focused on counterfeits. INTA also participated in a CTC briefing on counterfeits in December. The first CTC briefing took place last October and offered an introductory session on the importance of trademark protection. INTA played a prominent role as a presenter and coordinator of that briefing.
Cohn notes the bicameral and bipartisan nature of the CTC. She says counterfeiting is one of the most important issues the Association faces. “That’s not only the traditional sort of counterfeits we see in brick and mortar shops, but also fighting counterfeits on the Internet. Internet transactions present new and increasingly difficult challenges to trademark owners and others engaged in the fight against counterfeiters,” she says.
“Members of Congress have many competing issues to focus on,” adds Cohn. “However, they and staff are very receptive to learning about trademarks and the issues we face. The main challenge is to maintain their focus on trademarks over some of the unrelated, but important, issues Congress must debate.”
INTA has been working closely with other federal agencies, such as the Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. Both are involved in trying to increase the ability to fight counterfeits.
“We are also working very closely with USPTO officials on a regular basis to provide input on policy and operational issues and comment on whatever we can formally and also informally to try to maintain a very close relationship as stakeholders,” says Cohn.
Another challenge is to change the public’s opinion towards counterfeit goods. Cohn notes the dangers of counterfeiting, such as the health issues posed by fake pharmaceuticals, or even a watch made with the wrong metal. “Counterfeiters don’t care about how something is made,” she says. “They not only don’t care about the brand owners, but they also don’t care about the consumers.”
INTA Senior Director of Government Relations, Washington DC
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