Customs Officials Report Record Seizure of Counterfeit Goods

Federal authorities last year stopped 34,143 shipments of knockoff items coming into the U.S. that violated intellectual property laws

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 06 Mar 2018 at 12:36 PM

Federal customs officials, in the fiscal year that ended in September 2017, intercepted more than 34,000 shipments of counterfeit or pirated goods, a new record.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers seized 34,143 shipments of items that violated intellectual property rights (IPR). That was an 8 percent increase over the previous year. CBP officials pegged the retail cost at $1.2 billion.

“The theft of intellectual property and trade in counterfeit and pirated goods causes harm to an innovation-based economy by threatening the competitiveness of businesses and the livelihoods of workers,” acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.

“Another record-breaking year of IPR seizures highlights the vigilance of CBP and ICE personnel in preventing counterfeit goods from entering our stream of commerce and their dedication to protecting the American people,” McAleenan continued.

The two agencies made 457 arrests, obtained 288 indictments and got 242 convictions.

About 90 percent of the 34,000-plus seized items came on container ships or through the mail. Authorities said some of the products may have posed health or safety risks or posed security risks to consumers. The most common category of seized items was apparel and accessories, accounting for about 15 percent of all arrests in the year.

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Watches and jewelry, footwear, consumer electronics, and other consumer products rounded out the top five most commonly seized types of counterfeit products.

China and Hong Kong were the biggest violators, with an estimated 48 percent of seizures representing knockoffs sourced from there. Some 16,538 shipments with a retail value of $554.6 million came from China, and another 13,357 came from Hong Kong, with a value of $386.2 million.

"The illegal importation and distribution of counterfeit goods not only threatens the economy, but also presents significant health and safety hazards to consumers and funds international criminal organizations involved in forced labor, drug trafficking and other illicit activities," said interim ICE Director Thomas Homan.

"ICE agents are committed to effectively collaborating with CBP, industry representatives and law enforcement agencies around the world to ensure the integrity of the American supply chain, and the agency will move to prosecute those who violate IPR laws and regulations," Homan said.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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