Friday, June 21, 2013

U.S. Customs Seizures of Counterfeit Fashion Items

Well, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asks the very same questions. All the big designers register their trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The more sophisticated trademark owners then also record their trademarks with CBP. CBP officers protect recorded trademarks by preventing the importation of merchandise attempting to enter the United States which may be counterfeit or otherwise infringe on the trademark rights of the trademark owner. Commonly counterfeited trademark examples are UL, HP, Apple, Microsoft, Wi-Fi, SD, Bluetooth, and HDMI. Counterfeiting is a $600 billion international business.

Both trademarks and copyrights are recorded with CBP through the Intellectual Property Rights e-Recordation online system. This system allows CBP to obtain information instantly which facilitates the seizure of fake goods. Customs officers investigate imports displaying the designer's marks, and verifies if they are genuine. The cargo arrives in the United States and is detained by CBP officers.  Often, the importer is asked to provide written licenses from the trademark owner authorizing the manufacture and importation of the items.  Often, a sample of the detained items is shipped to the trademark owner for careful examination. Once the trademark owner confirms that the item is counterfeit, CBP seizes it.

A formal letter from CBP's Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Office is eventually sent to the importer.The importer can then file a Petition with CBP requesting the release of the items. Sometimes, the importer decides to go to Court to get its merchandise released. The trademark owner is then much more involved in the process.

For more information on how to protect your designer marks or other trademarks using CBP, contact:

Peter Quinter, Esq.
Chair, Customs and International Trade Law Group
Shareholder, GrayRobinson, P.A.
1221 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1600
Miami, Florida 33131

Direct:  305-416-6960

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I have been an international trade attorney for over twenty years.  In that time, I have represented a few thousand companies involved in the importation, exportation, and international transportation of merchandise.  I have seen respectful, efficient U.S. Government employees and the most uncaring bureaucrats, importers who care about the law and others who only care how to get around it, and customs brokers who always try to do the right thing and others who you wonder how they ever passed the broker exam and the background check. I have listed the 10 Most Common Misconceptions in International Trade.

I have actually heard intelligent people who are CEOs or General Counsels of their companies say the most surprising things to me over the years.

1.  It is ok to bring in up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars into the United States.

2.  Dietary supplements that are "all natural" are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and, therefore, can make all kinds of medical claims.

3.  The U.S. Government does not care about the value of cargo being exported from the United States because there are no duties, taxes or fees paid to the U.S. Government on exports.

4.  If an airlines passenger brings into the United States over $10,000 in cash, the passenger must pay a tax to U.S. Customs or the IRS.

5.  If an importer uses a customs broker to file an entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and some false information is provided to U.S. Customs, only the customs broker is liable to U.S. Customs, not the importer.

6.  No one gets hurt by importing, buying and selling counterfeit merchandise.

7.  If some food product is marked with "Made in America" it must be good, but if it is marked "Made in China" then it must be bad.

8.  If an imported item is marked "Made in Vietnam" or "Made in Malaysia" or "Made in America" then if really must have been manufactured or produced in the identified country, and no other.

9. Since it is illegal to sell military items to places such as North Korea and Iran, if a U.S. company ships those items to a friendly country such as Australia or England, and the buyer in those countries then re-export them to North Korea or Iran, the U.S. company has done nothing wrong.

10.  A product manufactured in India, transported to Mexico, and then imported into the United States from Mexico should enter duty free under NAFTA because Mexico and the United States are members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Peter Quinter, Chair
Customs and International Trade Law Group
GrayRobinson, P.A.
Direct: (305) 416-6960
Miami, Florida