Before beginning a career in international trade, I did not ever stop to think that the t-shirt I was wearing or dishes I was using were likely made elsewhere, and went through a long complicated logistics supply chain in order to reach my local store. Little did I know that when anything goes wrong in that complicated supply chain, it would be my job to help. Recently, a client had over 2.5 million dollars worth of electronic merchandise on hold by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Customs) for alleged intellectual property rights violations. In plain English, Customs was under the impression my client was trying to import goods with trademarks or logos they did not have the authorization to import.

For this client, this was a lot of money at stake, and it could have put them out of business if we did not come up with a quick solution. Instead of thinking of the band aid type solution, to solely fix this issue, we came up with a compliance plan for the client to use going forward, that would also help solve the current issue.

The compliance plan involved both a short term and long term solution. In the short term, the goal was to have the 2.5 million dollars worth of merchandise released ASAP. To accomplish this goal, we had to prove to Customs that our client had the appropriate authorization from the relevant trademark holders. (Good time for you to check over your trademark licenses, are they all in place?  Do you have easy access to them if Customs comes a knockin’?)

For the long term solution, we began to work with Customs to prove that the client was a reputable importer. In this case, actions spoke much louder than words. Instead of telling Customs our client was compliant, we were able to produce documentation, and develop a relationship with the appropriately picked personnel in Customs. Through this relationship, we started a new process where the client utilized a pre-compliance program with Customs for all new products the client would import. This pre-compliance program included Customs review and internal track keeping of the client’s new products and relevant license agreements. This way, Customs had a first hand sneak peak at the new products and any potential issues would be addressed before, not after importation.

I am happy to report that all of my clients 2.5 million dollars worth of merchandise was released, and in a relatively short period of time. To date, all products that were pre-approved by Customs are typically immediately released by Customs and do not go through additional timely intensive exams.

Have you ever had a shipment on hold? What type of compliance programs do you have in place? I’d love to hear your stories, email me!