Category: Counterfeit

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1

Often, people and businesses can knowingly or unknowingly import counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States. The majority of these types of importations we encounter for clients are Internet purchases from China, such as purses, videos/DVDs, guitars, clothing,  electronics and accessories, but they can really be any type of product and from any country. Sometimes people know the merchandise is counterfeit but other times they do not have any suspicion, or in some circumstances truly know that what they are importing is not counterfeit. Even if ignorant about the merchandise being counterfeit, if it really is counterfeit then the property is still subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What is a counterfeit or trademark violation?

Counterfeit merchandise is merchandise that “bears a trade-mark owned by [someone in] the United States, and registered in the . . . [Patent and Trademark Office].” The counterfeit mark can be on the “merchandise, or the label, sign, print, package, wrapper, or receptacle” itself. 19 USC 1526(a). A counterfeit mark is a spurious trademark that is identical to, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered trademark. 19 CFR 133.21(a). If you do not have permission of the trademark owner to import the merchandise, it’s illegal to import it.

Because the counterfeit merchandise is illegal, it is subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs & Border Protection under most circumstances (usually it must also be recorded with CBP per 19 CFR 133.21(b)). 19 USC 1526(b) and (e). This means that customs can take the suspected counterfeit merchandise and destroy it, or if they can obliterate the counterfeit marks and get the consent of the trademark owner, then customs can give it to charity, give it to a government agency for its own use, or sell it at public auction.

Is it possible to get the seized merchandise released?

Before customs can destroy the counterfeit/trademark violations, give it away, or sell it, they must first give the importer a chance to respond. Since October 2015, at the time of detention or even after seizure, the importer has a right to request samples of seized merchandise from CBP. After merchandise is seized, Customs through its Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) office, will send a “notice of seizure” of the counterfeit merchandise to the importer of record. The importer then has several options, among those are the ability to file a petition for remission of forfeiture with FP&F. In this petition, the importer has opportunity to demonstrate that there are no counterfeit/trademark violations involved with the import of the merchandise.

Alternatively, the importer could argue in the petition for remission to customs that some exception to seizure and forfeiture applies. If the importer can prove that the goods are not counterfeit, then the seizure would be remitted and the merchandise released to the custody of the importer. A similar result is possible in certain other circumstances, like if they are permitted genuine, gray market goods, or are for personal use and accompanying a traveler entering the U.S., or if the trademark owner consents to the importation and the counterfeit marks are destroyed.

My merchandise was seized and forfeited as counterfeit. Am I in any other trouble?

If you have merchandise seized by customs and either lose your opportunity to get the merchandise back, abandon the merchandise, or ignore the notice of seizure, it may not be the end of trouble for the importer. In general, customs has the authority to fine or penalize anyone who violates the laws enforced by customs. This means that, weeks or months after the property is seized and forfeited, you may get notice of penalty in the mail from customs that demands payment of thousands of dollars in penalties! It could also mean you get a letter from the trademark holder threatening you with further legal action.

In Part 2 of this series, we discuss when and how customs can assess a monetary penalty after the counterfeit property is seized and forfeited.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Customs intellectual property enforcement through product seizures

Customs, like any other organization, sets goals and runs campaigns. In recent years there has been a focus on counterfeits, and products that infringe on trademarks, patents, or other forms of intellectual property. I know some folks who says customs doesn’t do enough in this regard. Nevertheless, touting its recent prowess in stopping a portion of the large amounts  of infringing goods flooding across the border, Customs recently released some news about its efforts for the 2013 fiscal year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations today announced the comprehensive results of ongoing efforts to protect America from the illicit trade in counterfeit and pirated goods during Fiscal Year 2013. [ . . . ]

The number of [intellectual property rights] seizures increased nearly 7% from 22,848 in FY 2012 to 24,361 in FY 2013. The [manufacturer’s suggested retail price] of seized goods increased from $1.26 billion in FY 2012 to $1.74 billion in FY 2013 [Editor’s Note: this is the price of the counterfeit goods as if they were not counterfeit]DHS averaged slightly over 66 seizures per day, with an average MSRP of each seizure being slightly more than $71,500.

“Together with our [intellectual property rights] partners, CBP continues to guard the nation’s borders against counterfeit products,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “These products are not only unsafe and dangerous to consumers, but they also pose a threat to the economic security of our country.” 

“These numbers are the result of the hard work of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security and the increased collaboration of our agencies through the IPR Center,” said ICE’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S. Winkowski. “But a great deal more has to be done to protect the public from the health and safety threat that counterfeits pose to our society. We will continue to pursue these criminals and educate the public about the real threats that intellectual property crimes pose.”

[ . . . ] Consumers are reminded to remain vigilant when making online purchases. [Editor’s Note: Internet purchasers are responsible for their imports complying with the law!]

[ . . . ] Collaboration through the IPR Center led to 692 arrests, 401 criminal indictments, and 451 criminal convictions for criminal IPR infringement activities in FY 2013.

While the People’s Republic of China remains the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized, with a total value of $1.1 billion, representing 68% of all IPR seizures by MSRP in FY 2013, DHS made seizures from 73 additional economies during FY 2013, including Hong Kong, India, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

CBP is committed to seeking global solutions to the global trafficking in counterfeit and pirated goods. Notably, CBP engaged in a joint enforcement operation with China resulting in the removal of 243,000 items trading between the countries, and also concluded joint enforcement operations with France and Germany.

CBP and HSI protect businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods.

More statistical data is available by clicking HERE.

Importing infringing items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government if, in fact, they are infringing on someone’s intellectual property. Once forfeiture is perfected, the person who caused the importation will probably get a notice of penalty from U.S. Custom & Border Protection in the mail based on the maximum penalty the law allows for the type of violation.

The person will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government may bring a lawsuit against them in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide.

U.S. Customs Counterfeit Seizure & Penalty; Fake Purses

KFox14’s website has a recent story about a a counterfeit purse seizure by customs with a value of around $12,000. We have previously written articles on trademark infringement gray market goods and trademark infringement, which can help you understand the process more.

The story AVAILABLE HERE on KFox14’s website, in part, says:

In January, 39 Michael Kors purses suspected of being counterfeit were seized at an El Paso port of entry. The purses were part of an international shipment from Hong Kong that was selected for inspection. Officers who were examining the shipment identified the suspect bags and they were turned over to members of the CBP Intellectual Property Branch for further review, officials said.

 

[ . . . ]

The purses were found to be of poor quality compared to what the brand was known for despite having nearly identical markings, officials said. A notice of seizure was given to the consignee of the shipment on March 10. The value of the seized handbags was estimated at $12,285.

Importing counterfeit items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government if, in fact, they are counterfeit. Once forfeiture is perfected, the person who caused the importation will probably get a notice of penalty from U.S. Custom & Border Protection in the mail for a minimum of $12,285, or the equivalent of the value of the products if they were real. That is what the law says.

The person will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government bring a lawsuit against them in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide.

CBP at JFK Seizes $150,000 in Counterfeit Currency

Any customs lawyer will tell you that it’s better to get caught failing to report real currency than to get caught importing in counterfeit money. You will note that this (counterfeit) cash seizure occurred as a result of the currency reporting requirement. The purpose of the currency reporting requirement is to do exactly this — catch people who are bringing in illegal (in this case counterfeit) money into the United States. In this case, the law has served its intended purpose, as the following news release clearly demonstrates

Jamaica, N.Y. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport seized 1500 counterfeit $100 Federal Reserve Notes (bills) last month.

On December 14, CBP officers selected Ciara Ryan for a random baggage examination. Ryan, 38 was returning from Colombia and had two bags in her possession. The first bag was examined by officers and was found to have a strong odor of glue coming from it. Upon further inspection, CBP found alterations to its bottom; within the alterations were several suspected counterfeit U.S. $100 bills.
A black leather satchel also in her possession was examined and found to contain more suspected counterfeit bills concealed within its lining. Ms. Ryan was placed under arrest and a total of 1,500 counterfeit $100 bills ($150,000) were seized. She will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York.

Based on these facts, it seems fairly clear that the person transporting the counterfeit currency knew it was counterfeit; I say that because of the concealment of the counterfeit currency in a false compartment in the bag and in the lining. If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and many other places, and not just locally.

Seattle Customs Seizures for Currency and Trademark Violations

Have you had your merchandise or currency seized in Seattle? You’re not alone. The annual fiscal year summaries have been released by the Port of Seattle, with the following statistics:

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailSeattle – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), announces that more than 26.4 million travelers were screened for entry into the United States during fiscal year (FY) 2013 (October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013) by the 1,364 officers and 122 agriculture specialists assigned to the Seattle Field Office (SFO). Among those travelers, CBP discovered $2.8 million in unreported currency, interdicted more than 767 pounds of illegal drugs, made 1,147 arrests, and seized more than 113,000 prohibited plant and animal products.

If you have had your money seized by customs, read visit our page that is devoted to understanding currency seizures to help you understand the process.

But, the news release deals not only with customs money seizures, either, but also with customs seized merchandise imported for violation of intellectual property rights, too. We have previously written articles on trademark infringement gray market goods and trademark infringement, which can help you understand the process more.

CBP continues to protect consumers by seizing prohibited, unlawful, or undeclared goods destined for the United States. [ . . . ] In Seattle, CBP officers and import specialists seized a shipment of handbags in November 2012 containing 644 items, including counterfeit Louis Vuitton, Coach, and Versace purses with a manufacturer’s suggested retail value of nearly $100,000. [ . . . ]

Protecting consumers from hazardous products is another way CBP stands guard over the flow of commerce. CBP officers partnered with Consumer Product Safety Commission investigators in Seattle to seize various shipments of foreign-made children’s products containing excessive levels of lead; the unsafe imports included wearing apparel and necklaces, reindeer ornaments activity kits, magic coin tricks, and dart ball game sets. Another hazardous product targeted are toys intended for use by children under 3 years of age; two shipments totaling 4,000 cartons of plastic bath toys were seized as they posed a potential choking or ingestion hazard to America’s children.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide.

Customs Merchandise & Property Seizures in the Caribbean

U.S. Customs & Border Protection in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recently reported their annual fiscal year statistics, which included the following nugget about currency seizures performed by customs. Most of these customs currency seizures occur at airports and water ports; we have reported on numerous currency seizures occurring at U.S. ports in the Caribbean in previous articles posted. The amount money customs seizes from travelers is staggering:

In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, CBP officers and agents . . . seized approximately $3.5 million in unreported currency in FY 2013, which runs from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013.

If you have had your money seized by customs, read visit our page that is devoted to understanding currency seizures to help you understand the process.

But, the news release deals not only with customs money seizures, either, but also with customs seized merchandise imported for violation of intellectual property rights, too. We have previously written articles on trademark infringement gray market goods and trademark infringement, which can help you understand the process more.

CBP officers conducted more than 164 seizures related Intellectual Property Rights violations, with a domestic value of approximately $1.9 million.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, New York, and Los Angeles.

CBP Counterfeit Handbag Seizure

I am sharing this news releases from Customs & Border Protection because it has to deal with topics that we have discussed in previous articles, namely seizures by CBP for counterfeit importations. We previously discussed the notion of gray market goods and touched on the topic of counterfeit imports in our article called Trademark Infringement: Importing Gray Market Goods and Seizure by Customs. This article only says that the bags were “in violation of the Hermes protected trademark” but does not specifically say how they were in violation; because the news release goes on to say that these bags were concealed within a shipment of non-infringing merchandise it seems unlikely that this was an innocent mistake by an inexperienced importer. It shows an intent to commit a fraud.

Los Angeles — U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport complex seized 16,053 counterfeit Hermes handbags in nine shipments from June 6 through September 17. All were in violation of the Hermes protected trademark.

Their combined domestic value of $295,665 contrasted to the manufacturer suggested retail price of $210,785,475 had they been genuine, illustrates the potentially high profit margins in such an illegal venture.

“CBP officers are trained to identify and interdict counterfeit goods, and this is a great example of how their training and expertise are employed every day in our ports of entry,” said CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles Todd C. Owen. “These counterfeiters are not only cheating the legitimate designers and manufacturers of protected trademark merchandise, but also the public and the U.S. government,” he added.

Eight of the shipments were coming from China, one from China via Hong Kong. Two had the knock-offs hidden in the nose of the containers with concealing attempts of packing legitimate, non-infringing merchandise behind them.

Five different importers sent the shipments. All were destined to surrounding areas of Los Angeles except for one destined to Texas.

CBP Counterfeit Handbag Seizure
Approximately $1.26 billion worth of counterfeit goods originating overseas were seized by CBP in 2012. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Taiwan are the top five countries of origination for counterfeit goods seized by CBP.

Nationwide, handbags and wallets comprised the greatest number of counterfeit items seized by CBP last year, with the value of seizures up 142 percent compared to 2011. Of the approximately $511 million in handbags and wallets seized, more than $446 million came from China.

Violations of trade laws, including violations of intellectual property rights laws can be reported to CBP online. ( e-Allegations Submission )

It looks like someone is going to be getting a notice of penalty CBP’s Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture’s office very soon. If you are facing penalties from CBP for items you have imported or for your import practices, call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page.