Trademark and copyright law trumps charity, sometimes.

You would think that seized counterfeit goods would be destroyed. Most of the time they are. Some argue instead of destroying counterfeit products such as clothes, they should be given to charity.

That is what happened during Hurricane Katrina when the government handed out counterfeit clothes. As people needed clothes since all their possessions were in the sea, and the Federal Government had plenty of fake clothes to hand out considering how much they seize on a daily bases they figured national emergency’s trumped trademark laws. Trademark holders did not feel the same way, and in 2006 a new anti-counterfeiting bill was passed. The bill stated seized items had to be destroyed. However the post 2006 US way is not what other countries do.
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From the most recent counterfeit bust:

That was just a taste of at least 202,000 items seized by federal agents in recent weeks because they had bogus National Football League trademarks. The rest will remain in warehouses until it is no longer needed as evidence, said John Sandweg, the acting director of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement division.

And then?

“Then it is destroyed,” Mr. Sandweg said.

With much of the country in the steeliest grip of winter, Mr. Sandweg was asked if there weren’t better uses for the clothing than shipping it to industrial shredders or incinerators.
“It’s counterfeit — what else can we do with it?” Mr. Sandweg said.
He added: “We are required to destroy it by law.”

But most of the clothing, by far, is taken by federal authorities and destroyed under the provisions of a 2006 anti-counterfeiting law. The law was enacted a year after Hurricane Katrina, when knockoff clothing was widely distributed to storm refugees. Drawing from warehouses of unlicensed jackets, T-shirts, pants and bedding, customs workers filled tractor-trailers and distributed the clothing in places like the Houston Astrodome. The federal workers had not sought the permission of the rights holders before doing so, which drew criticism in legal circles from writers who said that their good intentions did not trump laws protecting trademarks and brands.

“In its act of charity, the federal government sacrificed the rights of trademark holders,” Kristina Rae Montanaro wrote in The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law; she also noted that “common decency” suggested that rules could be broken in a disaster. Among the competing interests, she wrote, some makers of high-priced clothing did not want knockoffs of their clothing being worn by poor people. “After all, these companies did not spend millions of dollars in high-end advertising only to be associated with ‘shelter chic,’ ” Ms. Montanaro wrote.

Go over to our friends in the UK and they have a different view:

Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit goods seized by Police Scotland officers are being donated to a local Glasgow charity this week.

On Thursday 17 April – Maundy Thursday – officers will hand over goods confiscated during raids on stalls at the Barras between 2009 and 2010 to Glasgow the Caring City charity.

Chief Inspector David Pettigrew, local area commander, London Road Police Office, said today:

“Rather than destroying the clothing, we thought it would make more sense that a local charity benefit from the donation.

“For us this is a win, win situation. We take them from the criminals and give to people in need.

“We have the consent and support of the brands to make the donation for which we are very grateful.”

The counterfeit goods, estimated to be worth in excess of (£315,000) three hundred and fifteen thousand pounds, include fake UGG boots, Armani t-shirts, Addidas trainers and Prada tracksuits. They will be shipped overseas to those in need by Glasgow the Caring City charity whose chief executive Rev Neil Galbraith, said:

This is just one story from the UK. You can find many stories like this.

What do you think?  Should trademark laws be thrown out during national emergencies? Then what is the law. This is a difficult subject and can be debated for days. Leave a comment on what you believe the government should do in a emergency. Laws, specially during times of war are always changed and rights are removed.

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