Customs Seizure & Penalty for Counterfeits and Uncertified Engines

Importing is a tricky business that presents a trap for the novice. You may think you can import merchandise that can be used to make a few quick dollars on because of a high profit margin. The story below falls into that category.

This person attempted to import 300 Wii controllers, 400 USB convertors, and 200 small motorcycle engines. If successful, there was some money to be made. But the problem was the Wii controllers and USB converters were counterfeit, and the 200 small motorcycle engines lacked an important EPA certification.

The consequences? Customs seized the counterfeits and the small motorcycle engines are an importation contrary to law because of the failure to have certification by the EPA.

PORTAL, N.D. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers recently targeted a rail container at the port of Portal, North Dakota. In February 2014, CBP officers inspected the rail container and discovered merchandise that violated multiple laws and regulations. The merchandise consisted of approximately 300 counterfeit Wii remote controllers, 400 counterfeit USB converters and 200 small motorcycle engines that were not certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CBP determined that the trademark was counterfeit on the Wii remote controllers and USB converters. As a result, CBP seized those items. The counterfeit merchandise had a Keep Calm and Contact Your Customs Attorneymanufacturer’s suggested retail price of $20,800. In addition, CBP seized the small engines that were found not to be certified, as required by the EPA. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the engines was $16,400.

“CBP continues to play a key role in Intellectual Property Rights enforcement,” said Brent Beeter, the Port Director in Portal. “CBP continues to stay focused on combating the illegitimate trade in counterfeit products.”

Stopping the flow of illicit goods is a Priority Trade Issue for CBP. The importation of counterfeit merchandise can damage the U.S. economy, and threaten the health and safety of the American people.

With the growth of foreign trade, unscrupulous companies have profited billions of dollars from the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods. To combat the illicit trade of merchandise violating laws relating to intellectual property rights (IPR), trademark and copyright holders may register with CBP through an online system. Such registration assists CBP officers and import specialists in identifying violative merchandise.

CBP’s IPR enforcement strategy is multi-layered and includes seizing violative merchandise at our borders, pushing the border “outward” through audits of suspect importers, cooperating with our international trading partners, and collaborating with industry and governmental agencies to enhance these efforts.

Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit or uncertified merchandise. The reason might be a failure see the harm that it causes to the owner of the trademark, by confusing their purchasers and destroying a reputation for quality, or just not caring about the consequences in quest for making themselves some money. To those and others, I say: Consult a customs attorney who is well acquainted with the laws enforced by the customs service and who can judge the legality of the transaction, even getting advice from customs in advance.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise or for importations contrary to law. We can help. You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. 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).

If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, 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 penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles: