Below is a Customs seizure story about fake monster tail bracelets recently seized as counterfeits. In the story, Customs states that fake products, often toys, can contain harmful substances like “lead or phthalates”. While that may be true, Customs only states that generally and does say if these products contain harmful substances. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. In my opinon, by explaining that counterfeits can contain harmful substances Customs obscures the real reason for seizure. Counterfeit products are subject to seizure even if they are totally safe. Period.
We previously explained the serious dangers of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States; how it results in seizure, monetary customs penalties, and some strategies as to how the importer can defend it. This story underscores the importance of everything we discussed in those articles, which you should read here: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2.
DALLAS – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Dallas/Fort Worth International airport seized 200 Rainbow Loom ® Monster Tail ™ kits, Nov. 16.
“This seizure is indicative of the level of attention CBP officers are paying to protect consumers from harmful counterfeit products,” said CBP Area Port Director Cleatus Hunt. “Genuine products pass rigorous safety testing while cheap imitations, though packaged to look authentic, are an inferior product containing harmful substances.”
Common harmful substances found in counterfeit toys include lead or phthalates.
The counterfeit craft item was made in China and enroute to La Paz, Bolivia. CBP officers examined the shipment of 15 cartons which was manifested as necklaces when it arrived in Dallas. Upon examination, officers discovered the popular children’s kits among the cartons and after verifying the kits were counterfeit, seized the cartons containing the kits.
Protecting intellectual property rights is a priority CBP trade issue because counterfeit and pirated goods not only hurt American businesses, these products are often associated with criminal activities and fund other criminal enterprises.
For this particular seizure, a primary concern was the risk the counterfeit kits posed to the consumer. Rainbow Loom ® cautions against purchasing counterfeit kits with illustrations of the dangers fake kits pose to consumers.
Shoppers who suspect they purchased a counterfeit item should discontinue using the product and contact the National IPR coordination center. Consumers can learn about getting their money back by visiting the Federal Trade Commission.
As the holiday shopping season begins, shoppers can protect themselves by learning how to spot a fake at Stopfakes.gov.
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 violative of the trademark laws.
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 the equivalent of the value of the products if they were real. The importer 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 can bring a lawsuit 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 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.