U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in cooperation with Special Agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made a spectacular bust of a ring of counterfeiters in New Orleans prior to the Superbowl. Arrests were made and millions of dollars of allegedly counterfeit merchandise were seized. This is just the latest incident in the daily activities of both CBP and HSI officers to attempt to stop the importation, distribution, and sale of counterfeit merchandise. Statistically, 2012 was a record year for CBP with $1.26 billion in counterfeit merchandise seized and 691 arrests, according to CBP Assistant Commissioner Al Gina.
Every year, CBP reports its statistics of seizures of counterfeit merchandise. The trend is clear; it is up because there is simply more counterfeit merchandise entering the United States each year from countries such as China, Mexico, and Vietnam. One day it may be counterfeit NFL team jerseys, the next day it will be counterfeit birth control pills, or counterfeit auto parts. Counterfeiting is a multi-billiion dollar business.
Americans apparently support it because we are huge consumers of counterfeit merchandise. Most consumers of counterfeit merchandise know they are buying a knock-off because instead of paying $5,000 for a genuine Rolex watch, the $50 counterfeit look alike seems like a good deal. That occurs whether the illegal purchase and sale is at a flea market or on the Internet.
CBP is, however, often simply wrong when it detains, and then seizes, merchandise it suspects is counterfeit. In those situations, an attorney very familiar and experienced in challenging such detentions or seizures becomes critical to obtain the release before the value is significantly decreased and delivery can still be made to the customer. Plus, a huge fine can be issued by CBP to any importer for a violation of 19 USC 1526(f) when the importer attempts to import counterfeit merchandise, so avoiding or mitigating that fine through the CBP administrative petition process becomes paramount.
Peter Quinter, Chair
Customs and International Trade Law Group
GrayRobinson law firm
Direct Phone (305) 416-6960