“Shelter Chic”: Can the U.S. Government Make it Work?
This Note discusses government donations of seized counterfeit goods to charitable institutions and the implications of these practices. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contributions to the Red Cross for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort serve as a backdrop for important concepts. In making these contributions, the CBP relied on its emergency authority and a presidential proclamation to avoid basic statutory requirements that it (a) obtain consent from the right holders and (b) de-trademark counterfeit goods prior to donation. While the donations inarguably benefitted countless disaster victims and freed up valuable CBP warehouse space, they may have had a detrimental impact on trademark holders’ rights and the U.S. government’s image as a forerunner in global IP rights enforcement. Additionally, the CBP’s post-Katrina contributions raise concerns as to the legality of such donations under federal and international law. This Note weighs the various interests at stake and ultimately suggests policies for avoiding the unnecessary sacrifice of trademark holders’ rights in future government donations.