Trademark infringement refers to unauthorized use of marks with the intention to mislead or confuse consumers.
Infringement is remedied by taking appropriate legal action against the infringer, including using available laws where necessary. Infringement matters are dealt with by the FSC's legal department, however the preliminary process may involve national or regional offices.
Potential effects of infringements on FSC include:
- loss of trademark rights;
- loss of goodwill, reputation, trust or integrity of the FSC system;
- exposure to legal risks including lawsuits; and
- confusion in the market as to the certification status of products in the market.
A note on trademark misuse
Misuse of trademarks refers to non-compliant uses of trademarks by licensed users. Misuses are often remedied by engaging and obligating the licensee to follow and comply with FSC trademark standards/guidelines. FSC's trademark management unit is responsible for controlling and remedying misuses. FSC's legal department is not involved in resolving misuse incidences, unless and only when a legal question arises.
Reporting a trademark infringement
Our stakeholders are vital in our effort to preserve the credibility and integrity of the FSC system. The information and intelligence we gather from you is invaluable. The infringement reporting form is one of the possibilities stakeholders like you can use to contribute towards a credible system.
Suspicion can be raised where a merchant claiming to be FSC certified:
- does not display his certificate;
- the certificate has been altered to make it difficult to read;
- parts of the certificate have been obscured/altered; or
- the certificate bears a name closely resembling that of the merchant.
- License number for certificate holders: FSC-C, followed by six digits
- License number for non-certificate holders: FSC-N, followed by six digits
- License number for public project certification: FSC-P, followed by six digits
Most infringers, as with counterfeiters, often sell sub-standard products, passing them off as having met certification approval processes. There are noticeable 'red flags' that should raise suspicion of infringement. These include:
- Suppliers who hide their certificates, try to make certificates unreadable, or obscure parts of the certificate especially the name of organization issued with the certificate;
- The name on the certificate does not match the merchant/seller;
- FSC trademarks that are modified, out of shape, with wrong colours, or the trademark symbol is missing;
- Products with suspiciously low prices, for example Teak, Ebony or Pink Ivory listed as cheaper than Pine wood;
- Non-wood products like granite, plastic, carbon, and metals misleadingly marked as FSC certified;
- Products listed as originating from FSC, for example FSC paper, FSC tables, FSC wood, FSC stationary or FSC plywood; or
- Suspicion can be raised when merchants/ suppliers list their goods as 'FSC high quality products', 'FSC genuine quality approved', 'FSC-guaranteed genuine wood', 'FSC exotic quality chairs', etc.
To help and encourage effective usage of the platform we have developed a simple FAQ on how to report infringements.
Where and how do I report a trademark infringement?
You can submit an infringement report using the reporting form. Take note of required fields. The form contains placeholder texts which will give you an overview of the information you are required to provide in order to complete the form.
You may also click on the question marks to get additional help. You can generate a PDF copy of the report for your reference.
Alternatively, you can send a physical report to FSC Global Development GmbH (Legal Department) at Adenauerallee 134, 53113 Bonn, Germany, or by fax at +49 (0)228 367 66-65.
Who handles infringements at FSC?
Infringements are handled by the legal department.
What information is required to submit an infringement report?
To enable a timely and efficient response to a reported matter, FSC typically requires the following information:
- Reporter details. Full name, country, and email address of reporter. A reporter has the option to remain anonymous.
- Infringement details. Identification of the infringing goods or services by product name, license code, shop where the goods are sold or online platform where it is available, the date the infringement was discovered, the trademarks being infringed, and any other details that could be useful in resolving the case.
- Evidence. For example, brochures, magazines, social media handles, URLs, pictures, video clips, invoices/receipts, and adverts.
- Communication and feedback possibility. The reporter can choose if he wants to remain anonymous and also if he would like to receive relevant updates pertaining the matter. FSC will only update as to the status. No substantive, technical or legal information will be shared with the reporter.
What happens after I submit a report?
You should receive a notification if you have provided an email and have requested to be kept updated. The FSC legal department receives the submitted report. We will verify the information internally and may also reach out to you for further details. The matter is then categorised according to the nature of the infringement. Any proceeding action is dependent on the categorisation.
How can I be kept updated on an infringement matter I reported?
To be kept updated on the case, a reporter must provide a functional email and select the option to receive updates before submitting the form. FSC will only update as to the status of the case. For example to let you know that the matter has been resolved, the product has been taken off the shelf, or the infringing mark has been removed.
No substantive, technical or legal information will be shared with the reporter.
How long does it take to close a case?
Infringement matters vary in nature and complexity and thus may require different approaches and timelines to conclude.
After verification, analysis and categorisation we may have a better estimation of how much time it may require to resolve an issue. It may take from just a few days to a couple of years, especially in cases where courts have been approached.
What if I do not have sufficient evidence, but I suspect an infringement?
If you have insufficient information, you can still submit the report to us. You are still required you to upload evidence (picture, document, video, URL, etc.) of the potentially infringing material with a brief explanation of the matter. This should help initiate an investigation and verification process.
How can I verify information before I make a report?
FSC has a number of tools available for you to verify facts before reporting a matter. Please utilise the online public search for certificate holders on our website. This could be helpful to verify if a license belongs to a particular individual/organization.
FSC also has trademark standards FSC-STD-50-001 and 50-002 which define the required thresholds for acceptable uses by certificate holder and non-certificate holder licensees. It is important to read these documents as some of the reports may be misuses that are explained by these two standards.
FSC also provides a trademark registration list which contains all of the FSC trademarks and how they are used worldwide. These tools are not legal opinions. If in doubt please contact the FSC legal department for clarification.