Recently, Customs made a large seizure of counterfeit soccer club apparel in Puerto Rico. We have previously discussed, in a two article series, about the dangers of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States, how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and what can be done.
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). The story is below, with my emphasis in bold:
With a high demand for the 2014 FIFA World Cup related apparel, some dishonest vendors sought to capitalize on the event’s popularity, infringing on various trademark holder’s rights and revenues. On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Juan Field Operations officers seized a consignment of counterfeit soccer team delegation uniforms. The shipment arriving from Hong Kong to the San Juan Air Cargo facility, contained boxes of soccer t-shirts and shorts that were destined to an address in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The trade in these illegitimate goods is associated with smuggling and other criminal activities, and often funds criminal enterprises”, stated Area Port Director Juan Hurtado. “Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a CBP priority.” Further inspection revealed that the uniforms of the fake Brazilian, Italian and Argentinian national teams violated the IPRs of Puma, Adidas and Nike.
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During FY 2013, CBP field operations conducted more than 164 seizures related to IPR violations, with a domestic value of approximately $1.9 million. 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.
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 the equivalent of the value of the products if they were real.
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 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.