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There’s Something Going on With Turkey, Virginia and Counterfeit Cotton Socks

Schemers hoping to evade the law are angling for a piece of the market for diabetic socks, which Persistence Market Research values at more than $192 billion by 2025.

Just two weeks after seizing 118,566 pairs of counterfeit cotton diabetic socks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Area Port of Norfolk-Newport News, Va., diverted another 165,707 pairs that violated the Cotton seal trademark.

Mark Laria, CBP’s area port director for the Area Port of Norfolk-Newport News, said socks designed for this specific medical condition are an “unusual” target for fakes and fraud.

“Diabetic socks are an unusual product to counterfeit, but Customs and Border Protection officers realize that bad actors will counterfeit anything that lines their greedy pockets with illicit proceeds, regardless of any potential harm their products will cause their customers,” Laria said.

CBP officers on July 29 seized a shipment appraised at more than $2.6 million per the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) had they been authentic. CBP officers initially inspected this shipment of Hugh Ugoli branded diabetic cotton socks on July 12 after it arrived from Turkey, and officers detained the 694-box shipment. This shipment was similar to the July 13 counterfeit diabetic socks seizure.

CBP described diabetic socks as specialty items designed without elastic to reduce pressure and swelling and eliminate friction that may cause discomfort, and that also help keep the wearer’s foot dry. Any level of substandard manufacturing may seriously endanger the health and well-being of diabetic wearers, it said.

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Import specialists at CBP’s Apparel, Footwear and Textiles Centers of Excellence and Expertise verified with Cotton Incorporated that the Cotton seal trademark on the packaging was unauthorized. According to Cotton Incorporated, products bearing the “Seal of Cotton” trademark it exclusively owns and licenses are evaluated for their cotton quality and content.

In addition, licensees must have all artwork and packaging bearing the Seal of Cotton trademark approved prior to manufacturing and distribution.

“This incident is yet another example of Customs and Border Protection doing their job to help enforce registered trademarks used in commerce,” Mark Messura, senior vice president, global supply chain marketing for 
Cotton Incorporated, said. “Like any brand or importing company that has a registered trademark, enforcing the proper use of that trademark is essential to maintaining your business.”

After seizing 118,566 pairs of counterfeit cotton diabetic socks, CBP officers in Virginia nabbed another 165,707 pairs worth $2.6 million.
The packaging displayed an unauthorized “Seal of Cotton” trademark. Courtesy

CBP officers seized the socks destined for an address in Loudoun County, Va. No one has been criminally charged and an investigation continues.

“We remain committed to intercepting counterfeit and potentially dangerous consumer goods, and we strongly encourage consumers to protect themselves and their families by purchasing goods only from reputable vendors,” Laria said.

CBP protects businesses and consumers through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) enforcement program. During fiscal year 2021, CBP officers and Homeland Security Investigations special agents seized over 27,000 shipments containing goods that violated IP rights.

The total MSRP of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was $3.3 billion, or an average of about $9 million every day. HSI special agents also arrested 388 individuals in 2021, obtained 155 indictments, and received 100 convictions related to IP crimes.