U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is charged with enforcing the various laws affecting imported merchandise. Among these laws are those related to enforcing and protecting the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of trademark and copyright owners.
The theft of intellectual property and trade in fake goods is associated with the funding of criminal activities and organized crime. Accordingly, IPR enforcement is a “priority trade issue” for government authorities and CBP.
In 2012 CBP seized 22,848 shipments with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), had they been genuine, of $1.26 billion; in 2013 the number of IPR seizures increased nearly 7% to 24,361 with the corresponding MSRP of the goods increasing 38% to $1,743,515,581. Of this, fake apparel and accessories comprised about 35 percent of the total seized goods and 67 percent of those seizures were shipped from China.
Examples of this year’s seizures include the 185 counterfeit guitars and $1 million in fake European soccer merchandise.
Record with Customs and Border Protection
Facilitating these seizures are the recordations of the Trademarks and Copyrights that were registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office. After registering a copyright or trademark with the USPTO, recording it with CBP will augment the government’s ability to protect and enforce an owner’s intellectual property rights.
Recordation is relatively inexpensive, costing $190.00 and very simple. One may do it either by letter or electronically, providing the basic information about the business owner and trademark
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Provide Customs and Border Protection Details of your IP Item
In addition, intellectual property owners may also provide CBP with a Product Identification Training Guide, (PITG) which is placed on CBP’s internal websites and linked to the e-Recordation system, thus further enhancing the ability of CBP officers to recognize protected merchandise.
Inform Customs and Border Protection of Suspected Illegal Activity
Moreover, CBP accepts information regarding suspect shipments or parties electronically through its e-Allegations on-line reporting system. As done with the recordations and PITGs the submitted information is disseminated to the appropriate office or port of entry for investigation.
Money Talks – Recorded Marks Are Subject to a Fine
Because the IPR issue is such a high priority for CBP, Customs officers at the borders may very well seize protected merchandise without the above steps being taken. Further, exacting a monetary penalty from the violator may assist in preventing future / additional violations, or at least provide some sense of satisfaction to the IPR owner.
CBP has a specialized matrix that it uses for dealing with various violations, including counterfeit marks. According to the matrix, merchandise bearing a counterfeit mark that is not recorded with CBP and does not have the consent of the trademark holder is seized and may proceed to forfeiture But no fine is issued.
On the other hand, if the mark is also recorded with CBP, the importer is subject to a monetary fine. For a first violation, the fine assessed is the value of the merchandise as if it had been genuine, based on the MSRP of the genuine merchandise at the time of seizure. For a second or subsequent seizure, the fine assessed is twice the value of the merchandise as if it had been genuine, based on the MSRP of the genuine merchandise at the time of seizure. Importations of counterfeit merchandise, depending on the circumstances may also constitute a violation of the penal statutes of the United States under Title 18 U.S.C.