The fashion industry led the way in counterfeit goods seized by federal authorities in fiscal 2018, according to a new report from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination (IPR) Center.
Apparel and accessories, footwear, watches and jewelry, handbags and wallets, and consumer electronics were the top five product categories in IPR seizures that raised the total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods–had they been genuine–to $1.4 billion from more than $1.2 billion in 2017. Watches and jewelry accounted for 44 percent of the total, while handbags and wallets represented 16 percent.
By volume, there were 6,098 seizures of apparel and accessories accounting for 18 percent of the total, and 4,728 confiscations of footwear, making up 14 percent.
The report is based on data gathered jointly between the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led IPR Center and Customs & Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Trade. The report also showed that in 2018, the number of IPR seizures decreased by 333 seizures to 33,810, with 381 people arrested, 296 indictments obtained and 260 convictions related to intellectual property crimes.
Mainland China was the top country of origin for the counterfeit shipments seized, with $761.16 million worth of goods representing 54 percent of the total amount, followed by Hong Kong, with $440.34 million, or 31 percent worth of goods.
“This report clearly shows the ongoing threat of counterfeit goods that makes a compelling case for stepping up efforts to inform and educate the public about the risks counterfeit goods pose to public health and safety,” IPR Center director Steve Francis said. “In addition to potential health and safety hazards, counterfeit goods threaten the U.S. economy and fund organizations involved in violent crime, not only here in the United States, but around the world.”
Francis is taking his concerns to private industry with a request to join him and the center’s network of 25 domestic and international partner agencies as part of a campaign designed to heighten public awareness about the dangers of counterfeit goods.
“We are using this opportunity to team up with business and industry to send a strong message to the public that infringing on property rights is not only illegal, but also unhealthy and unsafe,” Francis added. “More importantly, we want to educate consumers about the harm associated with counterfeits to aid in our efforts to identify and investigate individuals or companies suspected of engaging in the manufacture, shipment, distribution and sale of counterfeit goods.”
The outreach efforts are part of the HSI-led IPR Center’s strategy to engage in partnerships with the public and private sectors to combat IP theft through Operation Joint Venture. This initiative is designed to increase information sharing with public and private sectors to combat the illegal importation and distribution of counterfeit, substandard and tainted goods.
Some additional highlights of the report were that the boom in e-commerce sales has resulted in a sharp increase in the shipment of small packages into the U.S. In the year, there were 161 million express shipments and 475 million packages shipped through the international mail environment. More than 90 percent of all intellectual property seizures occur in the international mail and express environments.
Each year, more than 11 million maritime containers arrive at seaports. At land borders, another 10 million arrive by truck and 3 million arrive by rail. An additional 250 million more cargo, postal and express consignment packages arrive through air travel.