Who’s at fault – the importer or the manufacturer who used “Samsung” batteries in the toys?

batteries lot
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

I receive at least one call a week from importers who have had their goods seized by Customs for trademark violations, and one very common seizure is for “Samsung” batteries (or any other brand name) contained within toys such as hoverboards or RC vehicles.

As you are aware, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the hall monitor of the multiple government agencies and CBP is tasked with the enforcement of all rules and regulations established by the various agencies – for example, CBP enforces trademarks, enforces FDA import alerts, enforces US Fish and Wildlife restrictions on shark fins and all of the tens of thousands of rules from every agency.

In regards to trademarks, CBP must enforce trademarks if the intellectual property holder registered the trademark with Customs. Unfortunately for importers, Samsung has registered many trademarks and anything found to contain the “Samsung” trademark is easy picking for Customs to detain.

Typically, CBP has the ability to detain goods for 5 days – and longer if the detention is because the goods are suspected of violating intellectual property rights.

Once CBP detains a shipment – they notify the importer of record (IOR) or customs broker the shipment has been detained and will be released pending proof the IOR has authorization from the trademark holder to import the trademarked goods.

Unfortunately, 10 out of 10 times the trademark holder will respond to Customs the IOR does not have authority to import the trademarked good. Once that happens, CBP will officially seize the goods and issue a Notice of Seizure to the IOR by certified mail, return receipt requested.

The importer of record then has 30 days to respond to the seizure. According to the Election of Proceedings form on the last page of the seizure notice, there are 4 options – (1) file a petition, (2) forfeit the goods, (3) refer to court action or offer in compromise.

Going back to the original question – who is at fault for the seizure, the manufacturer that used “Samsung” batteries or the importer of record? And as you can guess from the above – CBP will ultimately find the Importer of Record responsible for trademark violations. While this answer seems unfair, it makes sense as CBP has no authority outside of the United States and no mechanism to go after the manufacturer. The only party CBP can find liable is the importer of record.

If you have had your good seized for any reason – contact seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

550 pounds of counterfeit Apple and Samsung products seized.

Seized Apple products, source: CBP.gov

According to a mid-December U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers in Cincinnati seized multiple boxes of counterfeit goods totaling 550 pounds. The seized shipment from Hong Kong arrived in multiple shipments and included electronic accessories such as cables, earbuds, chargers with counterfeit logos from brands such as Apple and Samsung. CBP estimated the MSRP (if authentic) of the goods was $49,666.00 – a very specific amount typically used when there is a quantity of counterfeit goods seized.

This is the first time in recent memory CBP has described a shipment of counterfeit goods by weight. My guess is the number of earbuds, cables, chargers and adapters (lighting to headphone jack?) were packaged in small boxes or clamshell packaging. Separating each earbud case, each box of cable and each charger would likely have taken too much time to separate and count.

The media release includes the typical CBP paragraph warning counterfeit goods and the sale of contribute to criminal activity, forced labor, human trafficking and cause a risk to consumers due to the products not meeting quality standards.

If you have had your goods seized by Customs, contact David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com to discuss your options.

No laughing matter – $1.3 million in counterfeit LOL toys seized.

Seized “LOL Surprise!” toys, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of New York/Newark recently seized a shipment of counterfeit LOL Surprise toys along with counterfeit UNO card games. The large seized shipment contained over 141,000 card games and over 11,000 counterfeit LOL surprise balls and capsule toys. If authentic, the total MSRP of the seized goods would have totaled approximately $1,300,000.

Toys suspected of being counterfeit are reviewed by CBP’s Consumer Prodcuts and Mass Merchandising Center for Excellence and Expertise (CEE). The CEE in turn will work with the trademark holders to verify the authenticity of the goods.

Interestingly, this Customs media release indicates the seizure was also being investigated by the Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents. HSI involvement typically means suspicion of criminal activity or something more than the usual counterfeit goods.

If you or someone you know has had your shipment seized by Customs, contact David Hsu by phone at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com to discuss your options.

Counterfeit sports memorabilia seized by Customs.

Image of seized jerseys, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers in Cincinnati seized 200 counterfeit sports jerseys bearing the autograph of various athletes – including Jason Witten, Dwayne Haskins, Rod Carew and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If authentic, the value of the jerseys would have been worth over $42,000. This shipment was sent from the Philippines to Nashville, Tennessee.

“Counterfeiters only care about making a profit,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “They don’t care about the effect their fake product has on you, your family, or your job. Our officers are well-trained to find seizures like these, to continue our mission of protecting the American public and the American economy”

In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments of counterfeit goods worth nearly $1.3 billion had the goods been genuine. Most of these seizures were of apparel and accessories, but fake medical supplies played a significant role as well. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBP has seized more than 13.5 million counterfeit face masks, and more than 177,000 unapproved COVID-19 test kits.

CBP encourages consumers to be aware of counterfeit and pirated goods when shopping this holiday season, particularly when purchasing online. CBP has also established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers associated with purchasing counterfeit and pirated goods online or in stores. More information about that initiative is available at http://www.cbp.gov/fakegoodsrealdangers.

$25 million in fake watches seized by Customs.

Image of seized Rolex watches, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Louisville, Kentucky seized 1,280 “Rolex” watches, if authentic, would be worth an estimated $25.2 million dollars. The shipment from Hong Kong arrived in four shipments to Louisville, Kentucky ultimately destined for Salt Lake City, Utah. If you are wondering why the seizures usually occur in Louisville, it is because that is where DHL/FedEx/UPS have their hub for shipments from China.

The Customs media release claims the watches were mis-manifested (wrongly described on the entry paperwork, packing list, or invoice). As an aside – Customs at their discretion seize goods that are mis-identfied.

Customs seized the watches and sent either sample photos or a sample seized watch to Rolex to confirm authenticity. As Rolex (and any property rights holder) denied the authenticity, the watches were seized and will be forfeited (destroyed by Customs).

If you have had your goods seized by Customs, contact seizure attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 at anytime or email attorney.dave@yahoo.com or dh@gjatradelaw.com.

Over $9 million worth of counterfeit designer goods seized in Texas.

CBP officers examining 1 of the 148 boxes, source: CBP.gov

Dallas CBP officers at the Dallas/Fort Worth port of entry seized a shipment of counterfeit designer merchandise for China and destined for an address in McKinney, Texas.

CBP claims in their media release their “experience” led them to a perform an examination on the shipment contained in 148 boxes.

CBP’s “experience” is more “common sense” – if your shipment is from China and mentions clothing, watches, shoes, phones, electronics – Customs will take a second look and assume everything with a brand is counterfeit.

Within the 148 boxes, Customs officials found goods bearing trademarks from Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yeezy among others. Customs look at the quality of the item and the poor packaging to determine the likelihood a good is counterfeit.

Besides visual confirmation a good is likely counterfeit, Customs may also send images or samples of the goods to the trademark holders to verify authenticity – and 10 out of 10 times the trademark holder will say the goods are counterfeit.

If you have had your goods detained or seized, contact seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-288 or by email to: attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

Operation Mega Flex – $8 million in counterfeit watches seized.

Counterfeit watches, sources: CBP.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release. CBP officers in Ohio seized 11 counterfeit Richard Mille watches from Hong Kong with the ultimate end user in New Orleans. See image above of the seized watches.

The seizures in Ohio and the other intellectual property rights violations seizures are part of CBP’s efforts to stop unfair Chinese trade practices and protect US businesses. This operation is known as “Operation Mega Flex and has resulted in 4,200 seizures of goods in the past 15 months”.

If you have had your goods seized by Customs, contact David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

$2 million in counterfeit goods seized by CBP.

Counterfeit goods, source: CBP.gov

CBP officers in Louisville, Kentucky seized shipments from Dubai and Hong Kong containing over $2.0 million in counterfeit goods. The shipment from Dubai was labeled “men’s clocks” and upon inspection contained luxury watches from “Piguet”, “Hublot”, “Richard Mille” and “Cartier. The CBP import specialist determined the goods were counterfeit.

The second shipment from Hong Kong was labeled as “pedometers” – but in reality contained 180 “LV” watches and 65 “Oakley” sunglasses. Customs estimate the total seizure of the goods, if authentic, was worth $2,360,540.

The customs media release didn’t mention this – but if you have a shipment of goods destined for the US and detained by Customs, the typical 5-day rule of Customs to hold your goods does not apply. In general, seizures based on suspected counterfeit or IP violations do not have to abide by the 5-day rule and you may be looking at 2-4 weeks before your goods are seized or released.

If you have had your good seized by Customs for suspicion of being counterfeit – contact customs seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text anytime at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

Louisville CBP seizes fake shoes, handbags and clothes.

Counterfeit goods seized, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Louisville seized a shipment described as “women’s clothes”. Upon further examination, CBP officers found designer shoes, handbags and clothes. Based off the appearance of the goods, a CBP import specialist examined the goods and determined 95 items were counterfeit and therefore seized. If authentic, the shipment from Vietnam destined to California was valued at $193,740.

If Customs has seized your goods and issued you a penalty notice for importing counterfeit goods, contact David Hsu for your options – call/text anytime at 832-896-6288 or by email attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

$1.1 million in counterfeit goods seized in Kentucky.

Counterfeit goods seized, source: CBP.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers in Louisville seized five shipments containing counterfeit goods, if authentic would be worth more than $1.1 million.

On that day, CBP seized multiple shipments, with 5 separate shipments containing: 30 “Louis Vuitton” toes, 4 “Dior” handbags, 2 “Gucci” handbags, 200 “YSL” purses and another 366 “LV” bags. The last shipment contained a box with Louis Vuitton wallets.

When Customs detains goods for suspicion of counterfeit goods, CBP will submit photos or send samples to the trademark or other intellectual property rights holder. Almost 100% of the time the trademark holder will notify Customs the importer of record does not have a right to import the covered goods. If so, then Customs will seize the goods and send a “Notice of Sezizure” to the importer of record.

If you have had your goods seized by Customs, call David Hsu or text anytime at 832-896-6288 or email attorney.dave@yahoo.com.