Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit 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. Another reason might be because they never got scammed into buying a product at full price… only to find out it is a worthless counterfeit. But sometimes counterfeits are dangerous. Like electronics with a fake testing laboratory certifications, or those missing legally required safety features. The story that follows perfectly demonstrates the reasons why customs seizes counterfeits and often penalizes people who import them (original HERE):
HOUSTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized nearly 5,000 hair dryers as the required Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters that
protect consumers from electrical shock or electrocution hazards were missing. The hair dryers, which originated from China, have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of almost $330,000. “This seizure is the latest example of the vigilance and attention to detail our officers pay to protect consumers from imported goods
that pose a dangerous risk,” said CBP Houston Area Port Director Dave Fluty. During an examination of the shipment, officers found the dryers missing the immersion protection plug and bearing a suspect trademark logo. Officers coordinated with Consumer Product Safety Commission and with the CBP Intellectual Property Rights Rights [sic] Branch, Regulations and Rulings, Office of International Trade to verify authenticity. The CBP IPR Branch confirmed the products were counterfeit, and a CPSC evaluation of product samples concluded the required immersion protection plug was missing resulting in the seizure of the entire shipment that contained more than 400 boxes of the faulty articles. According to CPSC, consumers should look for a large, rectangular-shaped plug at the end of the hair dryer cord indicating the presence of a GFCI. The certification mark of a recognized testing laboratory should also be visible on the hair dryer or on the hair dryer’s packaging.
The individual who caused the importation is now liable to customs for penalties for 1) importing counterfeits into the United States under 19 USC 1526 and 2) importations contrary to law under 19 USC 1595a, because there was no GFCI on the hairdryers. It will prove to be a costly mistake. As we have previously explained, the penalties for the trademark violation are equivalent to the MSRP of genuine articles, or in this case almost $330,000; the penalties for importations contrary to law is equivalent to the domestic value of the imported merchandise, which is likely far less than the $330,000 figure and equivalent to, more or less, the price actually paid for the merchandise. I am sure any penalty in this case will be for at least $330,000.
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:
- Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1
- Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 2
- Trademark Infringement: Importing Gray Market Goods and Seizure by Customs