With November quickly approaching, many of you are busy making final arrangements for AAPEX. In addition to finalizing booth details, travel itineraries and meeting times, you should also consider how you will protect your intellectual property (IP) during AAPEX.
IP protection is critical to the auto care industry and is therefore an important part of AAPEX itself. The organizers of AAPEX have a zero tolerance policy toward IP violations and will work with exhibitors to resolve legitimate claims of IP infringement. To provide a mechanism for exhibitors to lodge complaints about potential infringement of an exhibitor’s IP by another exhibitor at AAPEX, AAIA and its partners provide IP attorneys during the show. IP counsel will be available in the AAPEX IP Office in the Sands Expo Center Room 401 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 4 – Thursday, Nov. 7 to receive and investigate complaints of IP infringement. AAPEX welcomes any exhibitor concerned about potential infringement to make use of this exhibitor service.
The key to adequately protecting your IP during the show is being able to support a complaint with adequate documentation explaining the ownership of the disputed or applicable rights. Thus, it is important to plan to bring copies or have access to registrations for IP, such as patents and trademarks, as well as any relevant marketing materials, contracts and other supporting documentation.
Upon receiving a complaint, IP counsel will conduct an initial review to determine whether a complaint is adequately documented and demonstrates a violation of the AAPEX IP Policy. When necessary, IP counsel may also conduct an investigation into the specific facts or circumstances to whatever extent is necessary in order to clarify, expand or corroborate the information provided by the complainant. This may include review of an exhibitor’s display and products, as well as documentation of the evidence through the taking of photographs, as well as contacting other individuals who may have knowledge of the facts and circumstances surrounding the complaint.
In circumstances where the evidence presented by the complaining party indicates a violation of the IP Policy or otherwise may be disruptive to the AAPEX show, IP counsel, in coordination with AAPEX management, may order the respondent exhibitor to remove products during the pendency of the investigation. Violating exhibitors face potentially severe consequences, which may include closing an exhibitor’s booth and a ban from future AAPEX shows, as well as the loss of seniority privileges.
AAIA urges all AAPEX exhibitors to develop year-round protection and enforcement programs for their IP and to utilize the IP Review Process to protect their intellectual property during AAPEX. AAIA also recommends that exhibitors consult with an attorney experienced in the field of preserving and protecting IP. More information on the AAPEX IP Policy is available here: http://www.aapexshow.com/2013/public/Content.aspx?ID=3089&sortMenu=103007.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) theft is one of the many challenges AAIA members can face in the global marketplace. When counterfeiters sell products using our members’ brand names, they steal income from legitimate companies, cause consumers to question the reliability of aftermarket products and threaten consumer safety. They also threaten the flow of legitimate trade, as counterfeiting cases raise the level of scrutiny on aftermarket products, causing additional burdens and delays. Thus, although relatively small in scope when considering the size and importance of the aftermarket, IPR protection is an issue we must all be aware of and can play a role in addressing.
AAIA supports continued efforts by Congress and the administration to improve IP enforcement at home and abroad. As such, AAIA recently participated in an informal roundtable discussion hosted by the National IPR Coordination Center, in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Automotive Center of Excellence (CEE). The discussion focused on the enhancement of substantive enforcement protocols for combating IP theft in the automotive industry. The small gathering presented a unique opportunity to meet with the Detroit based CBP-CEE leadership and other Intellectual Property Rights enforcement officials.
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting, piracy and commercial fraud. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft and commercial fraud. The IPR Center works closely with CBP’s Automotive CEE, a central point of contact for inquiries and resolution of issues regarding automotive-related imports.
AAIA’s goal for participating in the discussion is to explore ways to enhance direct connectivity for AAIA members to these key groups. The IPR enforcement officials want to hear directly from industry so that they can more strategically target IPR infringers and ensure that legitimate trade flows freely and efficiently. With limited resources and expertise, their best weapon is the intelligence, feedback and guidance they receive from industry representatives. AAIA will continue to work with these government partners and keep its members updated on their initiatives.
AAIA encourages its members to become familiar with the resources the IPR Center and the CEE offer. Members interested in learning more should contact Andres Castrillon at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 301-654-6664. Members can also visit the following websites for additional information: