If you import a product into the United States from China, the odds are good that your competitors can find out about it. And by find out about it, I mean they can easily and very cheaply (sometimes even for nothing) use a service such as Import Genius, Panjiva or Tradesparq or others to determine what you are importing, how much of it you are importing, and even who you are using to manufacture it.

Don’t want your competitors to know from where you are buying your distinctive xyz product? You had better do something to hide it.

But what? The following methods are commonly employed to hide import information:

  • Set up your own Hong Kong entity and have that company buy the product from your China manufacturers and then be the shipper. Doing this means that the name of the Chinese manufacturer will not be easy for your competitors to discover, but it will not hide the quantity and the nature of your US imports.
  • Have your Bills of Lading made out to your customs broker in the United States. That way, US customs shows your customs broker as the importer and your name stays out of it.  The flaw in this though is that if your competitors know through which ports you are importing, they can maybe figure out who is importing your product (your customs broker) and then work backwards to figure out your manufacturer.
  • Have your bills of Lading made out to your freight forwarder both in China (as the exporter) and in the United Sates (as the importer).  Doing this hides both your manufacturer’s name and your name from your competitors.
  • Set up a “dummy” company in the United States for importing of your product. This has the same potential flaw as using your customs broker to receive your product; it does not hide the name of your Chinese manufacturer.

What are you doing out there to protect your manufacturing trade secrets?

  • Peter Keller

    Great post as always, Dan!

    You can also email US Customs to remove your import records from their database. I wrote about this (with a template email included) here:



  • Nikki

    When we started importing for our business we did not know that our records were being made public on sites like Import Genius. Once we found out we emailed US Customs and it stopped future disclosures. Is there any way to remove the information that is already out there on shipments prior to that?


    • Kungfu Sourcing

      Yeah, I just heard this things. It’s privacy in my mind.

  • Kungfu Sourcing

    Hi, Dan;
    What a blog! Claps.
    It’s very useful methods and hard to learn from school. When I was working at a handbag factory, it was really tough work to find the buyers from foreign countries, I had to work from 7am to 11pm, 6days a week. If I knew this method back then, I had not to suffer that much. Haha. It was a good experience though.
    Thank you very much!