Tag: civil seizure

Counterfeit Sunglasses Seized by Customs

Customs made another high value seizure of counterfeit merchandise being imported into the United States with infringing trademarks under 19 USC 1526. Customs seized 377 cartons of “Ron-Bei” sunglasses that they allege infringe the “Ray-Ban” trademark. This would be a good seizure and penalty case for our customs lawyer to defend, because it’s arguable whether the goods are counterfeit. The manufacturer’s suggest retail price, if the counterfeits were genuine, is $1,619.550. That is what the penalty amount will be calculated from.

We previously discussed, in a two article series, the dangers of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States, how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and how the importer can defend it. This story underscores the importance of everything we discussed in those articles: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2  (click to read). 

Let’s have a look at the story (original HERE):

Counterfeit Sunglasses Seized By Customs
Counterfeit sunglasses with an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $1,619,550 seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Savannah.

CBP officers discovered the shipment of sunglasses in a container that was selected for examination. During the inspection, officers discovered that the items bore a similar trademark to the Ray Ban Sunglasses logo. The items contained logos and similarities on the hang tags and the sunglasses that infringes Ray Ban’s trademark.

Ray Ban is an international company owned by Luxottica Group S.P.A. Luxottica Group is a manufacturer of eyewear with more than 7,100 optical and sun retail stores in North America, Asia-Pacific, China, South Africa, Latin America and Europe. In addition to a global wholesale network involving 130 different countries, the Group manages leading retail chains in major markets in North America, Asia, China, and Latin America.

CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods. Detailed information about recording intellectual property rights and reporting intellectual property infringement to CBP can be found on the CBP website.

Whoever wrote up this news release for customs should get a little money from Ray Ban for the free product pitch in the middle paragraph. 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.

Customs Seizure of $91,215 in Currency at Border

Below is a news release quoted from customs about a $91,215 customs currency seizure. If this person whose cash was seized by customs wasn’t up to anything illegal, then customs currency seizure was totally avoidable. He would have had to file the currency report, and demonstrate a legitimate source and legitimate intended use for the money. That is still what he will have to do if he wants to get the money back. But, he could have taken it with him had he only not hid the money and given Customs what they needed.

Let’s have a look at the story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting inbound enforcement operations at the Brownsville Port of Entry seized $91,215 in bulk U.S. currency.

On May 29, 2014, CBP officers working enforcement operations at the Gateway International Bridge came in contact with a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country as it attempted to enter the United States. The driver, an 18 year-old United States citizen from Brownsville, Texas was referred to secondary for further inspection. In secondary, a search of the Town & Country resulted in the discovery of packages containing $91,215 in bulk U.S. currency hidden within the vehicle.

CBP officers seized the currency; the driver has been transferred into the custody of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

“Persistence and dedication in northbound enforcement inspections are critical to our efforts of keeping undeclared currency from being imported without meeting proper reporting requirements. I commend our CBP officers for an outstanding seizure and arrest in this alleged bulk currency smuggling case,” said David Moreno, acting CBP Port Director, Brownsville.

It is not a crime to carry more than $10,000, but it is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or more to a CBP officer upon entry or exit from the U.S. or to conceal it with intent to evade reporting requirements. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest. An individual may petition for the return of currency seized by CBP officers, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.

CBP Field Operations at Brownsville Port of Entry is part of the South Texas Campaign, which leverages federal, state and local resources to combat transnational criminal organizations.

If you have had money seized by customs 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 nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Customs Counterfeit Seizures; Counterfeit Guitars

Back in May, Customs made a large seizure of counterfeit guitars in Jersey City. We previously discussed, in a two article series, the dangers of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States; how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and how the importer can defend it. It also happens that this story deals with false country of origin marking on imported merchandise.

This story underscores the importance of everything we discussed in those articles: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2 and Importing Grey Market Goods (click to read). You should also review the articles we have published on country of origin marking, available Country of Origin Marking Requirements and Customs Country of Origin and Substantial Transformation. The story is below, with my emphasis in bold:

Jersey City, N.J. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the International and Counterfeit guitars seized in Jersey CityBulk Mail Center in Jersey City, N.J. discovered more than 185 counterfeit guitars with an estimated retail value of more than $1,000,000.

While examining oversize parcels, CBP officers discovered five guitars bearing the Gibson, Les Paul, Paul Reed Smith, and Martin trademarks, as well as the marking “Made in USA.”  The officers immediately suspected the guitars of being counterfeit based on the Counterfeit Guitar Seizurescountry of origin, poor craftsmanship, and packaging.

CBP has since identified more than 180 counterfeit guitars bearing additional trademarks of Epiphone, Fender, Taylor, and Ernie Ball—all being shipped through the same facility. Officers discovered business cards within the packaging, all referring to the same website. The website indicated these guitars could be purchased from China for about $200 to $500; but the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for authentic guitars range anywhere from $2,000 for basic models to $54,000 for signature models. The guitars were seized by officers and are scheduled for destruction.

“CBP is on the forefront of protecting the American economy and trademark holders. Counterfeit goods pose a serious threat to the consumer and economic loss to American business,” said Robert E. Perez, director of CBP’s New York Field Operations. “Enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a priority for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program.

Information about internet purchases is available. Additional information on CBP’s IPR enforcement efforts can be found at CBP IPR.

Notice how the false country of origin marking may have raised the suspicions of customs and caused them to investigate the legitimacy of trademark further. Trouble never travels alone. You should read about your liability for customs violations for things you purchase on the Internet.

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.

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 Counterfeit Seizure; Soccer Jerseys

One of customs’ trade enforcement priorities is stopping the flow of counterfeit goods into the United States. Recently, customs seized counterfeit soccer club apparel that was imported into the United States with a street value of over 1 million dollars — “street value” here means the value of the merchandise if it was authentic. We have discussed the perils and consequences of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States in previous articles, namely Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2  and Importing Grey Market Goods (click to read).

The whole story is HERE, but let’s take a look at it below with my emphasis in bold:

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Soccer, known internationally as football, is the world’s most popular sport today. So it’s no wonder that some vendors will do anything to capitalize on this popularity, even if that includes resorting to theft; theft of a trademark holder’s rights and revenues.

It’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) mission to tackle counterfeit imports, and officers and import specialists in Savannah, Ga., scored a seizure of soccer apparel, April 11, which exceeded $1 million in manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

A few of the counterfeit soccer jersey seizures displayed.
Shipment arrived from China March 12. It contained 390 cartons of soccer t-shirts, socks, shorts and other merchandise.

“Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America’s innovation economy, the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of U.S. workers, the economic security of our country, and in some cases, the health and safety of consumers,” said Reginald Manning, CBP Director of Field Operations in Atlanta. “Together with our enforcement partners, Customs and Border Protection continues to guard the nation’s borders against counterfeit products.”

The shipment arrived from China March 12. It contained 390 cartons of soccer t-shirts, socks, shorts and other merchandise that was destined to an address in Chamblee, Ga.

CBP import specialists placed an inspection hold on the shipment and had the container trucked the following day to CBP’s central examination station. That’s when CBP discovered several t-shirts bearing patches of professional soccer clubs and detained the shipment for trademark verification.

The apparel, which has an MSRP of $1,016,399, represented Arsenal, Barcelona, Celtic, Chelsea, Mexican Federation, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid football clubs.

CBP requested that the importer’s broker submit authorization letters from the respective trademark holders to import their branded items, but on March 27, the broker reported that the importer did not have authorization.

Over the next week, representatives from Arsenal, Celtic, and Chelsea football clubs reported to CBP that samples of the merchandise bearing their brand was indeed counterfeit. CBP then officially seized the shipment.

View or download still photos of the seized merchandise.

Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a CBP priority trade issue.

CBP protects 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.

The People’s Republic of China, where this shipment was manufactured, remains the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized by CBP and its primary IPR partner, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with a total value of $1.1 billion. That number represents 68% of all IPR seizures by MSRP in FY 2013.

In addition to China, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seized counterfeit merchandise from 73 additional economies during FY 2013, including Hong Kong, India, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The most interesting part of this article to readers of this blog should be the the customs brokers was asked for proof of authorization from the trademark holders to import trademarked merchandise into the United States, but was unable to do so. Basically, customs was asking the broker to prove the items were not counterfeit – or that the trademark holders would not object to them being imported into the United States. Not likely to happen, that. If you can obtain the consent of the trademark holder, you’re much more likely to be able to import them to the US.

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 Currency Seizure; Criminal Charges for Bulk Cash Smugglers

U.S. customs effected a currency seizure of unreported currency under the bulk cash smuggling laws from citizens of the Dominican Republic and United States, who are all related and travelling together.  Some interesting things to note about this story is that although the money seems to be from a legitimate source because the story says it was from a business, criminal charges were nevertheless brought against all individuals involved in the bulk cash smuggling. Bulk cash smuggling is illegal, no matter the source. We have written articles about bulk cash smuggling before HERE.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $53,000 in unreported currency Friday, transported by three passengers boarding the M/V Caribbean Fantasy ferry departing to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

CBP Officers selected Dominican Republic citizen Mr. Felipe Alvarez, 69, for examination and explained to him the currency reporting requirements.  During the interview, Mr. Alvarez declared to be traveling alone and transporting less than $10,000. Intensive examination revealed that he was traveling with two other passengers, US citizen Manuel De La Rosa, 47, and Dominican Republic citizen Cristian De La Rosa, 35, both nephews of Mr. Alvarez.

Subsequent interview and exam of the three passengers revealed non reported currency within their clothing and in their carry-on items totaling $53,726.00. Mr. Alvarez later admitted that the money transported by him and his nephews were proceeds of his business in the Dominican Republic.

The currency was seized under bulk cash smuggling laws and Assistant AUSA Olga Castellón approved criminal prosecution for the three individuals.

Those arrested were remanded to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for processing and further investigation.

“The unreported cash that we seize has an impact on criminal organizations by making it more difficult for them to further their illicit activities,” said Juan Hurtado, San Juan area port director. “CBP officers remain vigilant generating important enforcement activity regularly.”

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States.  However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

Source: http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2013/1/28/46527/US-agents-seize-US53000-from-local-man-at-San-Juan-Seaport

If you have had money seized by customs 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 nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Detroit Customs Seizes Imported Machine Gun

Customs in Detroit recently seized a firearm, as detailed in a local and interesting news release. In this case the firearm was a .50 caliber machine gun. The original story is available here, but it is reproduced in full below. The only information we have available is that which is in the news release, which is a bit foggy on the details, but nevertheless it appears this was primarily a problem with insufficient and incorrect/misleadings documents presented to customs at the time of entry into the United States. The driver of the commercial cargo van only presented a manifest and a “generic email” the described the shipments as machine gun parts when, allegedly, it was an “assembled” U.S. origin machine gun (picture below, appears disassembled but more than just “parts” as described by the manifest).

Ultimately, Customs seized the gun apparently not because it was prohibited from entry, but because the importer “failed to satisfy federal importation procedures [regarding] documentation, manifest, bill of lading, entry type, proper invoice, tariff classification and proper disclosure of intent.”  The story below:

DETROIT- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Fort Street Cargo Facility in Detroit seized a .50-caliber machine gun during a cargo inspection. .50 Cal Machine Gun Seized at Fort Street Cargo Facility
Detroit Customs Machine Gun SeizureOn May 13, a commercial cargo van arrived at the cargo facility with only a copy of an electronic manifest and no invoice to describe the cargo. The only information about the shipment provided by the driver was the manifest, listing the shipment as Cal Machine gun parts and a generic email. The shipment was in fact, an assembled .50 caliber machine gun manufactured by an Ohio company.

After consultation with Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), CBP officers seized the machine gun as the shipment failed to satisfy federal importation procedures in regards to documentation, manifest, bill of lading, entry type, proper invoicing, tariff classification and proper disclosure of intent.

“Both CBP and the importing community have a shared responsibility to maximize compliance with laws and regulations. CBP encourages importers to be familiar with applicable laws and regulations, especially when there are specific requirements related to a particular commodity,” said Rod Blanchard, CBP Port Director in Detroit.

A monetary penalty was assessed against the importer and the weapon was returned to Canada.

Importers and travelers should visit www.atf.gov for importation information for firearms.

Based on the story, it seems that all of these problems could have been avoided if the importer had done their customs law homework and either consulted with or hired a customs broker prior to attempting to import the machine gun into the United States. Here is where the story gets a little more confused; although it seems customs seized the machine gun, it also seems that the seizure was shortly remitted and allowed to be shipped back to Canada.

The bad news is that the importer was already assessed a penalty (also, if true, that’s a fast turn around for a penalty from customs — it can sometimes take months). Great Lakes Customs Law handles penalty mitigation proceedings (some history of our success is HERE) and, if not already done, this importer should seriously consider trying to get the penalty mitigated if the amount is high. I do wonder what the penalty amount and basis is for this particular alleged violation because I could foresee a variety of them including importations contrary to law, falsity of manifest, failure to declare, and a few others.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 2

Importing counterfeit merchandise into into the United States is not only illegal, but is something that U.S. Customs & Border Protection takes very seriously. Intercepting counterfeits is considered it to be a priority trade enforcement issue. For truly counterfeit imported merchandise, there are few opportunities to get the seizure remitted (to get the merchandise back from customs), and so it is forfeited (becomes property of the government). We discussed this Part I of Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties. But, forfeiture is often just the beginning of the story, because customs can and does penalize people for importing counterfeit merchandise.

When does customs issue a notice of penalty for importing counterfeits?

As matter of policy, customs issues a penalty when 3 criteria are met:

  1. The counterfeit mark is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office
  2. The counterfeit mark recorded with U.S. Customs & Border Protection
  3. The importer has no consent from the trademark holder to import the counterfeits

In all other situations, customs has the authority to issue a penalty, but may or may not, even if the merchandise is seized. It depends on the individual circumstances of the case.

What is a notice of penalty and who is liable?

The notice of penalty is sent from the Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture’s Office of U.S. Custom & Border Protection through the U.S. mail, usually certified. The notice of penalty is typically a 1 to 2 page document, that states what law or laws or regulations were allegedly violated, and based on the violation, it demands payment of a certain dollar amount.

The importer and anyone who causes, directs, or assists the importation (financially or otherwise) is liable to get the notice of penalty.

How is the penalty amount determined?

The penalty dollar amount is usually based on the maximum amount that customs can levy under the law for counterfeit violations; they are are not based on the price actually paid for the goods, but on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) of the goods if they were genuine:

  • 1st Offense: the penalty is equal to up to the MSRP of genuine goods
  • 2nd (or more) Offense: the penalty is equal to twice the MSRP of genuine goods

For example, if you are importing counterfeit jeans that cost $5 each, but which have a MSRP for genuine jeans of  $95, customs customs uses the $95 price in its calculation. In this example, if 100 pairs of jeans were imported, the penalty for a 1st offense is up to $9,500 (not $500). For a 2nd offense, the penalty is up to $19,000 (not $500 or $1,00).

Does customs ever reduce a penalty?

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).

A failure to pay the penalty, or the mitigated penalty, will result in the referral of the matter for collection through the U.S. attorney. Customs may sue the importer or the person providing assistance in federal court and get a judgment against them. This allows the government to lien property, garnish assets and bank accounts, and seize property to satisfy the judgment.

Obviously, the best course of action is to file a petition, get a reduced penalty, and pay it.

Is there a way to reduce the penalty from customs?

Keep Calm Petition MemeYes, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs, it is possible for a penalty reduction of anywhere from 10% to 30% for a first or second offense. There would have to mitigating and no aggravating factors to achieve that result.

A standard disposition with aggravating factors, or for a third offense, may still garner a reduction of 50% to 80%, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs.

It is possible, and our law firm has been able to obtain complete cancellation of the penalty even in cases where there are still grounds for a technical violation of the law (some history of our success is HERE). Of course, results will vary from case to case, and no result could be guaranteed. Customs has maintains a list of mitigating factors and aggravating factors that it looks for, and which should part of the argument and analysis of any petition that is filed for them; without a careful and thoughtful analysis of those factors that customs looks for, you may end up pay more than necessary.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

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 Money Seizure; $150K Seized at Border Crossing

What follows is an account of a currency seizure recently released by U.S. Customs & Border Protection where the traveler had almost $150,000 seized because he failed to report the currency. Anyone who transports more than $10,000 into or outside of the United States must file a report with customs, prior to or at the time of crossing. When customs seizes your currency after arriving at an airport or border crossing you should keep calm and contact us. Even though it seems like the end of the world, there are legal steps that can be taken to get your money back through forfeiture remission proceedings. On to the story (ORIGINAL HERE):

Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations at the Hidalgo International Bridge seized $143,932 in unreported U.S. currency from a McAllen, Texas Keep Calm and Contact Your Customs Attorneyman as he attempted to enter into Mexico.

“This seizure of unreported U.S. currency was accomplished due to our officers’ outstanding attention to detail and excellent observational skills,” said Efrain Solis Jr., Port Director, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas. “Although transporting currency either way across the border is not illegal, as long as it is declared to CBP, most seizures of currency involve money having been obtained from illicit activities.”

CBP officers working at the Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge outbound lanes on May 6 encountered a U.S. based taxicab as it attempted to exit into Mexico. The driver and lone occupant, a 40-year-old male U.S. citizen were asked to declare what they were transporting into Mexico, to include currency in excess of $10,000. After further interaction with the passenger, the taxicab was referred to secondary for further examination. During the process of the secondary inspection, CBP officers discovered bundles of U.S. currency concealed within the traveler’s personal belongings. CBP-OFO removed and seized several stacks of unreported U.S. currency, which totaled $143,932.

CBP-OFO arrested the male traveler and subsequently released him to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for further investigation.

When crossing the border with cash or monetary instruments, remember to stay calm and report anything in excess of $10,000 USD.

The reason your currency was seized by customs may be different. The vast majority of my client’s have had their money taken by customs at the airport or at the land borders because of miscommunication, ignorance of the reporting requirement, confusion, fatigue from travel, and other times because of unfair, if not necessarily illegal, enforcement tactics used by customs. If you have had money seized by customs, keep calm and 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 nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

CBP Officers Arrest Man with $165,000 in Unreported Currency at the Laredo Port of Entry

Customs money seizure news releases from U.S. Customs & Border Protection have been sparse since customs renovated with their website. But, after nearly two months, we have a new story about a recent customs currency case at the Mexican border. This story is a about a 60 year old Mexican national from Louisiana who was transporting $165,000 in currency on his body.

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agents at the Laredo Port of Entry seized more than $150,000 in unreported currency as the result of a single enforcement action that resulted in the arrest of the man who had the currency in his possession.

Stopping the export of unreported currency is an important role in the overall scheme of hindering the flow of illicit proceeds at U.S. borders,” said Jose R. Uribe, Acting CBP Port Director, Laredo. “Laredo CBP officers and agents remain dedicated to the mission of applying export rules and regulations and hindering the cycle of these illegal outbound exportations.”

The interception of the currency occurred on Friday, April 11, while CBP officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound (southbound) inspections at the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge came across a 2011 Honda Civic driven by a 60-year-old Mexican citizen from St. Amant, La. A CBP officer referred the male driver and vehicle for a secondary examination that resulted in the discovery of eight bundles containing approximately $165,000 in unreported currency on his person.

CBP officers seized the unreported currency, and the vehicle. The driver was arrested by CBP officers and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S.; however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, traveler’s checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

The original news release for this customs money seizure is available here.

The reason your currency was seized by customs may be different. The vast majority of my client’s have had their money taken by customs at the airport or at the land borders because of miscommunication, ignorance of the reporting requirement, confusion, fatigue from travel, and other times because of unfair, if not necessarily illegal, enforcement tactics used by customs. If you have had money seized by customs 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 nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures