–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

French customs agents seized 10 tons of counterfeit chocolate bonbons. According to the French customs office, the chocolates were low-quality copycats of the Italian-made Ferrero Rochers. Popular in the U.S. as well as Europe, Ferrero Rochers candies are known for nestling in elegant, individual gold foil wrappers and then inside jewel-shaped clear boxes.

The French seizure of the chocolates underscores the importance of federal trademark registration for U.S. businesses. Obtaining a federal trademark registration enables business owners to work with U.S. Customs to stop the importation of counterfeit goods into the United States and, in many cases, to have the goods destroyed. (Somewhat sadly, this is just what the French customs office did to the 10 tons of chocolate!)

Once upon a time, counterfeiters focused on producing fake luxury goods, such as perfumes and handbags. The French customs office, however, stated that the recent trend shows counterfeiters moving into more pedestrian consumer goods, such as food, medicine and car parts. As a result, businesses both large and small may be targets for counterfeiters from abroad. While obtaining a federal trademark registration won’t necessarily prevent counterfeiters from trying to pass their goods off under a trademark registrant’s mark, it may be the best protection in preventing counterfeiters from getting away with their schemes and in deterring them from future attempts.