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.

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