Clothing and accessories top US fake good seizures in 2017

Seizures of counterfeit products arriving at US ports and borders increased 8 per cent last year, new figures reveal.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the number of illicit products infringing intellectual property rights (IPR) that were seized in the 2017 fiscal year represented an 8 per cent jump over 2016’s catch, increasing from 31,560 to 34,143.

The value of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was estimated at more than $1.2bn – less than the estimated value of 2016’s haul, however, which came in at more than $1.38bn.

China and Hong Kong were the most reported countries of origin for the seized goods, with 87 per cent of the products claiming to come from these countries.

Meanwhile, 89 per cent of all IPR seizures took place in the international mail and express environments, reflecting the “sharp increase in small packages into the US” as a result of e-commerce sales. Although this figure is a fall from the 91 per cent of seizures in international mail and express environments seen in 2016.

The statistics for 2017 also revealed that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations arm arrested 457 individuals, obtained 288 indictments, and received 242 convictions related to intellectual property crimes.

According to the statistics, the combined total number of all IPR border enforcement actions in 2017 increased 12 per cent over 2016.

“Each year, more than 11 million maritime containers arrive at our seaports. At our land borders, another 10 million arrive by truck and 3 million arrive by rail. An additional quarter billion more cargo, postal, and express consignment packages arrive through air travel,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.

“Products that infringe US trademarks and copyrights, or are subject to exclusion orders issued by the United States International Trade Commission, threaten the health and safety of American consumers and pose risks to our national interests… The components within the DHS remain vigilant in targeting shipments containing IPR-infringing goods, levying civil fines and criminally investigating those who seek to violate our trade laws, harm our people and damage our economy”, the department added.

Wearing apparel and accessories was the most common product category seized in 2017, accounting for 15 per cent of the total seizures, down from 20 per cent in 2016. This was followed by watches and jewellery (13 per cent), footwear (12 per cent), consumer electronics (12 per cent), and consumer products (11 per cent). Pharmaceutical and personal care products made up 6 per cent of seizures in 2017.

Watches and jewellery contributed to the lion’s share of the estimated value of the seized products, accounting for 38 per cent of the total value of seized products and amounting to $460m. Handbags and wallets came in second with 19 per cent of the value, equivalent to more than $234m.

Among specific items, the US authorities seized 123 shipments of counterfeit semiconductor devices, which infringed 49 trademarks.

There were 3,912 seizures of consumer products – the fifth most common category for seizures – which included items such as drinking tumblers, cell phone and computer accessories, and lights and light fixtures. According to the DHS, some of these goods may have posed threats to health and safety had they not been interdicted.

In addition, there were 38 seizures – with a value of $15.1m – of iconic, mid-century, modern design home and office furniture, which increased for a second year in a row. The enforcement efforts are believed to have helped protect more than 8,000 American jobs related to companies that make the genuine furniture, DHS said.

A number of specific operations took place in 2017. For instance, CBP and the General Administration of China Customs (GACC) conducted a month-long joint operation in April 2017 that focused on stopping shipments of IPR-infringing household consumer electronics – including lamps, lights, light fixtures, light bulbs, lighted signs, projectors, kitchen appliances, and personal grooming products – from entering US commerce. CBP made seizures at the US border while GACC interdicted exports of counterfeit goods destined to the US. The joint operation resulted in more than 1,300 seizures.

In another operation (Operation Team Player) ahead of the Super Bowl, the ICE-led National IPR Coordination Center, along with representatives from CBP, addressed the illegal importation of counterfeit sports-related merchandise. The operation resulted in the arrests of 12 individuals and seizure of approximately 24,324 items with an estimated value of $1.2m.

The statistics report also noted a number of actions taken by US authorities to improve enforcement and increase awareness of IPR infringement.

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