Many fail to grasp the importance of CBP seizures of counterfeit merchandise, and many fail to grasp they are liable for purchases made on the Internet that involve the importation of goods into the United States customs territory. It causes the trademark holder harm, confuses the purchasers, steals money from consumers who overpay for fakes, and destroy a reputation for brand quality. Some counterfeits, like electronics with a fake testing laboratory certifications, or those missing legally required safety features, are simply dangerous.
The story that follows perfectly demonstrates the reasons why customs seizes counterfeits and often penalizes people who import them, my comments are in [brackets] (original story HERE):
The Internet has made it easy to find and purchase items from almost anywhere in the world [NOTE: Something we talked about in Customs Liability for Internet Purchases – CLICK HERE]. With a high demand for well-known brands, many online vendors sell counterfeit products online, infringing on various trademark holder’s rights and revenues.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Juan Field Operations officers and import specialists seized this past weekend various courier consignments that contained counterfeit speakers, car beepers [??], iPhone parts, cell phone front screens, USB cables and writs-watches [seizure of counterfeit iPhone and Apple parts is a popular past-time of CBP].
Various consignments inspected by CBP officers at the San Juan Air Cargo facility, revealed products that infringed the intellectual property rights of Dr. Dre beats, Pandora, Samsung, BMW, Belkin and Disney trademarks. The products were shipped from vendors in China and Hong Kong. “The trade in these illegitimate goods is associated with smuggling and other criminal activities, and often funds criminal enterprises”, stated Area Port Director Juan Hurtado. “Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a CBP priority trade issue.”
Consumers seek and purchase particular brands of products, believing that such brands have an intrinsic guarantee of their quality. Without a brand to protect, counterfeiters just seek to produce superficial quality products and take advantage of the loyalty that consumers have for a branded product. Poor quality products end up destroying the reputation of the copied brand, when it becomes impossible to distinguish the real product from a counterfeit.
The last paragraph raises an interested question that I haven’t found a client willing to argue before customs yet: what happens when the products aren’t counterfeits, but are gray market goods that the trademark holder does not want imported into the United States? In other words, what happens when people inside the factory where genuine goods are made take some product out the backdoor and sell it online, and it gets imported into the United States? That’s an interesting question indeed….
Like we have explained previously, anytime your imports violate the law you face a hefty penalty for a CBP counterfeit seizure. We can help you if you are facing penalties from CBP for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).
Call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or CONTACT US HERE. We are able to assist petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Consult a customs lawyer who is well acquainted with the laws enforced by the customs service and who can judge the legality of the transaction, by even getting a prospective ruling from customs in advance.