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Customs Hit a Record for Counterfeit Goods Seizures in 2017—And Apparel Made up Most of It

Last year U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hit a record high for seizures of counterfeit goods, and the crackdown will continue. 

According to a new report, CBP and ICE seized 34,143 shipments of goods found to be in violation of Intellectual Property Rights.

IPR seizures increased 8 percent over fiscal 2016 and for the second year in a row, CBP and ICE seized more than 30,000 shipments of counterfeit and pirated products. The total estimated manufacturers’ suggested retail price (MSRP) would have been $1.2 billion had the products been genuine, the agencies said.

Wearing apparel and accessories was the merchandise category accounting for the highest number of IPR seizures, making up roughly 15 percent of all IPR seizures in the year.

“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,” said CBP acting commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “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.”

CBP and ICE have been worked in close partnership on IPR-related enforcement, and their cooperation led to 457 arrests, and ICE pursued and obtained 288 indictments with 242 convictions related to intellectual property crimes last year.

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“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,” ICE deputy director Thomas D. Homan said. “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.”

E-commerce shipments pose the same health, safety and economic security risks as containerized shipments, according to the agencies, but the volume is higher and continuing to grow. Of the more than 34,000 seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods in fiscal 2017, roughly 90 percent were found in the express carrier and international mail environments.

China and Hong Kong were the top two sources of goods seized over IPR issues. At roughly 48 percent of the IPR violation seizures, CBP seized 16,538 shipments from China with a total estimated retail value of $554.6 million, while 39 percent of IPR violation seizures, or 13,357 shipments with an estimated retail value of $386.2 million, came from Hong Kong.