November 21, 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Trade Releases Annual Report on Seizure of Goods Infringing U.S. Intellectual Property Rights


The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Trade (CBP) recently reported that, in 2018, it seized nearly $1.4 billion worth of goods at U.S. borders that infringed U.S. trademarks or copyrights—up from $1.2 billion in 2017.

The Department of Homeland Security targets and investigates all shipments arriving at U.S. borders that contain goods infringing on U.S. trademarks and copyrights. Each year, CBP releases a report detailing the types and quantities of products seized at the borders that infringe on these intellectual property rights.

According to this year’s report, in 2018, the number of seizures of goods infringing intellectual property rights (called “IPR seizures”), dropped from 34,143 to 33,810. However, the MSRP “of the seized goods, had they been genuine, increased to nearly $1.4 billion from over $1.2 billion” in 2017.

“E-commerce sales, including those through third-party platforms, have resulted in a sharp increase in the shipment of small packages into the United States,” according to the report.

Apparel and accessories accounted for the highest percentage of products seized, at 18%, but footwear (14%), jewelry (13%), handbags (11%), and consumer electronics (10%) all followed closely behind. Forty-six percent of seizures were of products shipped from China, and 41% were of products shipped from Hong Kong. Turkey, India, and Taiwan accounted for 4% of seizures, and all other countries accounted for the remaining 9% of seizures.

Although not all of these seizures were of counterfeit products, CBP has implemented a public awareness campaign called “The Truth Behind Counterfeits,” which uses ads on electronic bulletin boards at major U.S. international airports, and online ads on travel websites, to educate consumers about the prevalence of counterfeit products. CBP estimates the campaign was viewed approximately 200 million times in 2018.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s IPR Center also leads a project called “Operation Joint Venture,” through which it “targets [intellectual property] rights holders, manufacturers, importers, customs brokers, freight forwarders, bonded facilities, carriers and others to discuss the IPR Center’s priorities of protecting public health and safety, the economy, and securing the supply chain.”

There are several actions brands can take to both remove listings of counterfeit products and reduce the amount of counterfeit products that appear on the online marketplaces. For example, in addition to registering their trademarks through Operation Joint Venture, they can also lodge lawful, valid counterfeit complaints with the marketplace, demonstrating that a listing is counterfeit and requesting it be removed. If these types of direct actions with the marketplace are insufficient to address the problem, brands can take traditional legal action, including sending cease-and-desist letters and initiating litigation.