Using the Intellectual Property Rights Search to “Know Before You Buy”

Date of Publication: October 12, 2021

“Know before you buy” is an importance adage for purchases of all kinds, but is especially critical for anyone purchasing items that may cause issues with intellectual property rights infringement.

According to the World Trade Organization, intellectual property rights (IPR) are the rights given to a person over their own creations, like a book they authored or song they composed. Typically, the creator is given a copyright that gives them exclusive legal rights for a certain period of time, protecting them against others who want to sell or otherwise use their creation. If another party tries to infringe on IPR, like through counterfeiting or the sale of a deliberately similar product, it may result in serious penalties, including:

  • Fines
  • Seizure or forfeiture by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Criminal charges
  • Other types of litigation

This is why it is so important that buyers do their research, remain diligent about IPR, and take the rights steps to make sure their imported items are not products of IPR infringement.

One easy way to stay knowledgeable about IPR infringement is by using CBP’s intellectual property rights search (IPRS) tool. The IPRS tool, which can be found here, provides a searchable database of IPR recordations from the CBP and can be searched by keywords, fields, and record types. It includes public version of current IPR records, plus expired records. However, it should be noted that some IPR might not be recorded through the IPRS tool.

Another step for avoiding IPR infringement is to request a meeting with the seller or importer to ensure that the product does not infringe on any IPR. These types of meetings can be done via Zoom or another online platform, and are also a way for buyers to ensure that they are receiving the product they expect to receive.

Finally, buyers can also contact a customs broker for assistance in making sure they are not buying a product with IPR infringement issues. A broker knows the nuances and laws surrounding IPR and can help figure out if a product is committing an IPR infringement. Similarly, another option is to contact an international trade lawyer.

This content is intended for informational purposes. Due to the generality of this content, the provided information may not be applicable in all situations. We encourage the reader to review the most up-date-regulations directly with the U.S. government’s sources on IPR, which can be found here.