Customs broker and freight forwarder found liable for “use of a counterfeit mark in commerce”.

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A New Jersey U.S. District Court found a customs broker and freight forwarder liable for trademark infringements on Nike trademarks. The customs broker was ordered to pay $240,000 in damages and the freight forwarder will pay a yet undetermined amount.

The court held the broker and forwarder liable because they determined the arrangement of transportation and creation of documents related to the importation of the shipments constituted “use in commerce” of the Nike trademarks under the Lanham Act even though forwarder argued it had no physical control or knowledge of the shipments. Unfortunately for the broker and forwarder, the Lanham Act is a “strict liability statute” and does not consider intent or lack of intent in whether someone is liable. Speeding violations are the most common type of “strict liability statute” in that the act of speeding is the violation and it is not required to have the intent to speed. In this instance, the “use of a counterfeit mark in commerce” is the violation – with intent only a factor when determining the damages.

According to the case, (Nike, Inc. v. Eastern Ports Custom Brokers, Inc., et al., D.N.J. 2:11-cv-4390, July 19, 2018), the forwarder created the bill of lading, made arrangements for the cargo, and gave the broker a POA to act on behalf of the importer. The court ultimately found the broker and forwarder “played an active role in arranging for transportation” of the footwear and took “responsibility for the goods and making representations regarding the nature of the goods”. These actions were enough of an “use in commerce” under the Lanham Act and therefore liable for the trademark infringement.

One interesting note is the forwarder lost the case because they were in default after their lawyer withdrew in 2013. Default means a party to a lawsuit was properly served and noticed, but failed to make an appearance at any of the required hearings. For example, all parties are required to provide notice of trial dates and hearing dates. Proper notices were most likely sent by Nike to the forwarder – however, on the day of trial, no one made an appearance on behalf of the forwarder and as such lost the case for because they were in default. The forwarder, being in default, did not make an appearance and had no way to present any evidence to support their position.

Definitely an interesting case and the first time I’ve heard of a forwarder and broker liable for trademark infringement.

If you have any questions about this case and are would like to know how this ruling may impact your business as a broker or forwarder, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Fake Super Bowl rings seized by CBP.

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According to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP agents in Philadelphia seize fake Super Bowl rings worth $1 million dollars if authentic.

I did a quick search and found listings for Super Bowl rings ranging in price from $9.99 to $99.99 on alibaba.com. The CBP media release claims authorized replicas retail from around $10,000, but I did not seem to find a link to purchase authorized replicas.

CBP seized the 108 counterfeit rings because they contain trademarks belonging to the National Football League. CBP noted the poor craftsmanship of the rings from Hong Kong and the NFL confirmed the rings to be counterfeit.

If you have had property seized by Customs, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com, there may be something we can do to protect you from further civil or criminal liability.

CBP seizes hundreds of fake World Cup soccer jerseys.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in El Paso seized four shipments shipped from China containing counterfeit Mexican national team soccer jerseys. The estimated retail value of these jerseys, if authentic, totals $66,390.

Prior to this seizure, CBP also seized 4 other shipments with Mexico, Germany and Brazil team jerseys totaling $47,340.

The CBP media release claims counterfeit goods harm the competitiveness of legitimate businesses and the items may be of poor quality and contain health and safety hazards to consumers. El Paso has made close to 400 seizures of goods for intellectual property rights violations with a seized MSRP of more than $3.8 million.

If you or someone you know has had their shipments seized by Customs, contact experienced trade attorney, David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

CBP and Otter Products form partnership to prevent importation of counterfeit phone cases.

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On June 27th, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced a partnership with Otter Products, makers of the OtterBox and Lifeproof brand phone cases. OtterBox will provide phone cases to CBP under the “Donations Acceptance Program” (DAP) previously discussed on my blog here.

The donated cell phone cases will be for CBP’s use in verifying and comparing the authenticity of suspected counterfeit items.

The Donations Acceptance Program allows CBP to accept donations of real and personal property, money and non-personal services from the public and private sector entities in support of CBP operations. Authorized uses for donations include entry construction, alterations, operations and maintenance activities. More information can be found at: www.CBP.gov/DAP.

Not sure why someone would want to purchase OtterBox or OtterBox counterfeits – other cell phone case brands such as “Spigen”, “Caseology” and “Sup Case” make highly rated cases that are sold on Amazon and offer the same protection as an Otterbox.

CBP seizes $10 million in counterfeit luxury watches.

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This past Thursday (June 28th), Philadelphia U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized 699 luxury watches with a MSRP of nearly $10 million (if authentic).

The shipment was from Hong Kong, China and labeled as “lithium batteries”. Upon inspection, CBP officers found watches bearing luxury watch names such as: Tous, Hublot, Piguet, Panerai, and Fossil among others.

CBP probably questioned the shipment as luxury watches that are authentic are usually not sent from Hong Kong. In the media release, CBP officers also claimed the watch quality and packaging was poor – a typical dead give away for counterfeit goods.

If you have had any good seized by CBP on suspicion of being counterfeit, there are things we can do – call David Hsu, experienced trade and customs attorney for a free consultation and the next steps: 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

CBP seizes counterfeit mermaid and fashion dolls.

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As reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media relations office – CBP agents at the International Falls Port of Entry in Minnesota inspected a rail container and found merchandise that violated intellectual property rights (IPR) regulations.

As you are aware, CBP enforces the intellectual property rights and trademark rights of companies that register their mark with CBP. When goods are suspected of violating IPR – CBP will send photos or a sample to the property rights holder for verification. More often than not, the rights holder will notify CBP that the goods are counterfeit.

Specifically, CBP seized 60,180 mermaid and fashion dolls that contained copyright protected markings. If protected markings are found, even on a small doll accessory or only one doll, CBP will seize items as they had in this case. CBP calculates the seizure value based on the total MSRP if the items were authentic. Here, CBP in Minnesota claims the seized goods total approximately $601,198.

While the CBP media release doesn’t specifically mention the brand name, based on 60,180 dolls having a combined value of $601,198 and based on my experience as a parent to a daughter who loves Barbie – the seized dolls are counterfeit of the standard grocery store Barbie doll for about $10.

So what happens after a seizure? CBP will seize the goods and give the importer of record several options. CBP may also access civil penalties to the IOR.

If you or anyone you know has had items seized by CBP for IPR violations, or if you have any trade and customs law questions – contact experienced customs attorney, David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

 

 

Philadelpha CBP seize 100 counterfeit Yeti mugs.

Yeti Screengrab

Screengrab of the Yeti.com website.

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release on June 19th, CBP officers in Philadelphia seized 100 counterfeit mugs branded with the name of the poular cooler company Yeti.

The items were shipped from Hong Kong, China in April and labeled “fishing reel iron products”. CBP noted the “poor packaging” and “substandard quality” and detained the shipment.

After a shipment is detained, Customs will usually send a sample or photos to the trademark/word mark holder to verify authenticity of the mark. In this case, Yeti likely replied and told CBP the items were counterfeit.

In the event the trademark holder notifies CBP of the unauthorized use of a registered mark, CBP will seize the items and send a “Notice of Seizure” to the importer of record.

Philadelphia CBP has been busy with five counterfeit seizures in the past 3 months. Prior seizures included counterfeit jewelry and luxury watches.

If you have had your shipments seized by Customs, and you receive a “Notice of Seizure”, you should take action – call experienced seizure attorney, David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by  email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com. CBP seizures do not just go away and you may expose yourself and your company to personal, criminal and civil liability – call today!

 

 

 

 

CBP seizes $3 million in counterfeit jewelry and watches.

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In the second major seizure for the month of May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers in Philadelphia seized 64 pieces on April 3rd from a shipment coming from Hong Kong. If authentic, this seizure and a prior March seizure result in a combined manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of over $3 million.

The packaging indicated the shipment contained bangles and arrived from Hong Kong. With the large amounts of shipments from overseas, CBP is unable to inspect every package – instead will focus on inspecting shipments sent from places known to counterfeit items. Upon inspection of these bangles, CBP also found the counterfeit jewelry would be in packaging of poor quality.

This time, CBP officers found the package containing bracelets, earrings and rings bearing the Cartier and Tiffany brands.

If you or anyone you know has had their shipment seized by Customs, contact experienced Customs seizure attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com. Customs will seek civil and sometimes criminal penalties for importers that violate intellectual property rights – call today.

CBP seizes more than $1.5 million in counterfeit hangbags and belts.

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Credit: CBP.gov. CBP officers at the Port of Tacoma
seized merchandise that violated the
trademark rights of Chanel, Luis Vuitton,
Calvin Klein, Gucci and Fendi.

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) release, the Port of Tacoma seized counterfeit handbags and belts, among other high-end items totaling more than $1.5 million.

Without going into details, the press release indicated the counterfeit items were “of poor quality and violated the trademark rights of Chanel, Luis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Gucci and Fendi”.

CBP enforces over 500 U.S. trade laws and regulations (such as trademark violations of the handbags) for the over 47 federal agencies with a goal of “protecting the U.S. economy and its consumers from harmful imports and unfair trade practices”.

If you or someone you know had their imports seized due to CBP’s belief the items are counterfeit, contact experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu, 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com .

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Seize Over 6 Million Counterfeit Cigarettes.

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In mid March of 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers along with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) commercial fraud agents seized six million counterfeit cigarettes during a warehouse inspection.

The estimated retail price is $1.1 million. CBP import specialists with the Agriculture and Prepared Products Center of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) in Miami reviewed 600 boxes of counterfeit cigarettes and found multiple trade name protection and trafficking counterfeit goods violations.

CBP cites many dangers to these counterfeit cigarettes – first criminal organizations profit from the sale of counterfeit goods and second, counterfeit cigarettes pose a greater public health risk. CBP also indicates that trademark owners are also hurt and the government also is deprived of tax revenue.

If you or someone you know has had counterfeit cigarettes or any other goods seized by Customs for suspected IP violations or trademark violations – contact experienced Customs attorney David Hsu. Customs holds importers liable for both civil penalties and criminal prosecution. Call 832-896-6288 or e-mail dhsu@givensjohnston.com for immediate assistance.