Virginia Enacts New, Tougher Anti-Counterfeiting Law.

ALEXANDRIA, June 30, 2008-- A new, tougher anti-counterfeiting law goes into effect on July 1, 2008 in effort to protect consumers by expanding the definition of a trademark and creating tougher penalties.

The new law will treat all trademarks registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office as a protected mark in Virginia. Trademark infringement under Virginia state law will now be treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor (punishable up to 12 months confinement and/or a fine up to $2,500) instead of a Class 2 misdemeanor (punishable up to 6 months confinement and/or a fine up to $1,00). A trademark infringer in possession of counterfeit merchandise worth a combined $200 or 100 or more identical items bearing a registered trademark can be charged on two additional Class 6 felonies. A Class 6 felony is punishable by 1 to 5 years confinement and/or a fine up to $2,500.

The new law also provides that all item, property and profits substantially connected with trademark infringement can be seized by law enforcement and forfeited to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Officials have noted in an increase in sophisticated counterfeit operations in Virginia. In 2003, fifteen medical patients were implanted with fake surgical mesh in Hampton Roads. In May of 2007 Newport News authorities confiscated $1.8 million worth of counterfeit goods from 11 stores. The Virginia Attorney General’s Financial Crime Intelligence Center has assisted local law enforcement agencies in more than 25 criminal cases involving the sale and distribution of counterfeit merchandise since 2005. These law enforcement efforts have resulted in the seizure and recovery of counterfeit products valued at approximately $14.5 million; more than 45 arrests on state or federal charges; and 24 state convictions for misdemeanor offenses and 11 federal convictions.

“These new laws protect Virginia consumers from potentially harmful counterfeit products, while promoting legitimate business in Virginia,” Attorney General McDonnell said. “Counterfeit products pose a danger to our Commonwealth. Virginia continues to lead the way in protecting our citizens. I salute the partnership represented by – among others – law enforcement, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Blazer Investigations, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition and the Virginia Retail Federation. Additionally I thank Delegates Cline, Athey, Sherwood, Massie, Merricks and Cole, and Senator Saslaw, for their leadership in the General Assembly.”

Delegate Ben Cline noted, "Virginia is one of the first states to pass a law toughening penalties and making it harder for counterfeiters to sell their fake merchandise. Virginia is leading the way in protecting its citizens from harmful products and promoting legitimate business practices.”

“Counterfeiting and piracy threaten consumers’ health and safety, while shaking our confidence in the products we rely on and the brands we trust,” said Caroline Joiner, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center. “This legislation will protect Virginia’s consumers from dangerous and defective counterfeit and pirated products, while sending a strong message to the perpetrators of these crimes. The Chamber applauds the leadership of Attorney General Bob McDonnell and Virginia’s General Assembly for taking action that serves as an example to other states wrestling with the scourge of counterfeiting and piracy.”

Counterfeited products discovered in Virginia have included: automotive brake pads, diabetes test strips, airline mechanical parts, smoke alarms, baby food, prescription drugs, cancer-fighting drugs, surgical mesh, batteries, wine, clothing, shoes, DVDs/CDs, toys, toothpaste and jewelry.

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