CBP seizes wall charges bearing counterfeit “UL” markings.

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By Underwriters Laboratories (Underwriters Laboratories) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A U. S. Customs and Border Protection media release today reported that CBP officers at the Port of New York/Newark seized wall chargers with counterfeit UL markings.

What is UL?
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) is a worldwide safety consulting and certification company based in Illinois. UL will test products and issue a UL mark. The UL mark means that someone from UL has tested a representative sample of a product and such product meets defined requirements based on UL’s published and nationally recognized safety standards.

Back to the seized wall chargers –
The seizure occurred back in late September when CBP officers inspection a shipment of imported merchandise for possible Intellectual Property Rights violations. Import Specialists from the CBP’s Electronics Center of Excellence and Expertise (eCEE) determined that 150,000 wall chargers had counterfeit UL markings.

The total MSRP of the wall chargers, if genuine is estimated to be $2.7 million.

My thoughts?
Customs places liability for counterfeit goods on the Importer of Record. It is important for the IOR to verify with the shipper that goods do not contain any counterfeit markings and meet all other requirements before importation to the US. This is especially true since the IR bears all the risk and loss from seizures for IPR violations.

If you or anyone you know has a customs seizure or received a penalty for IPR violations, contact experienced customs and trade attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Givens and Johnston, PLLC at Breakbulk Americas 2018.

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Earlier this week, Givens and Johnston, PLLC attorneys – James Garland Hurst and David Hsu staffed the G&J booth at Breakbulk Americas 2018.

James and David were on hand to answer questions related to wood packaging materials and cost-effective solutions to deal with a “wood packaging material” notice from Customs. As you are aware, Customs vigorously inspects wood packaging material shipments entering the US for presence of invasive pests that damage the US ecosystem.

James and David also answered questions regarding ftz’s, bonded warehouses, import and export, compliance matters, Section 232 and 301 duties and the whole range related trade matters.

See you at Breakbulk Americas 2019! In the meantime, feel free to contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com for all your import, export and trade matters.

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Dulles CBP seizes $170k in unreported currency from 7 groups of travelers.

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Busy day at Dulles airport where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized approximately $170,000 in unreported currency from 7 different travelers.

As you are aware, it is legal to carry large amounts of currency, however, all amounts over $10,000 must be reported. The $10,000 limit is not for the individual, but rather the limit for everyone in the traveling party.

The seizures in early August included:

  1. CBP seizes $21,735 from a woman boarding a flight to Belgium. The family reported $9,700.00. Typically, CBP first asks the traveler(s) to complete FinCen Form 105 to report the amount of currency they have. After the Form 105 is completed, CBP then searches the travelers’ belongings. In this instance, after the travelers signed the form, CBP did a thorough search and found $21,735 total.
  2. On July 30, a man was boarding a flight to Ghana when he CBP seized $30,721 in unreported currency.
  3. A family on the way to Turkey was detained and CBP seized $21,000 in unreported currency. In this seizure, CBP found cash concealed in clothing and cell phone cases.
  4. Another group of travelers traveling to Ghana were stopped and CBP seized $34,585 from them. The couple mistakenly reported $10,000 was carried by each person.
  5. CBP seized $18,390 from another couple going to Turkey.
  6. $20,645 was seized from another group of travelers heading to Qatar.
  7. Last, a passenger on the way to Serbia had $17,178 seized after she reported $8,000.00.

If you have had your cash seized, contact experienced currency seizure attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

How you can protect your company in light of the new China tariffs.

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Since “List 1” of the tariffs on Chinese goods became effective on July 6th, we’ve had many calls from importers, forwarders and brokers on the best practices moving forward. Here’s a quick summary of what any importer should do regarding their imports of Chinese goods –

  1. Apply for a company-specific exclusion from the tariffs. The U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) has published procedures for doing so on their website. The current approved exclusions are from steel tariffs with more exclusions to follow as Lists 2 and 3 take effect likely later this year.
  2. Review your classifications of imported merchandise. There may be more appropriate HTSUS numbers that your merchandise can be entered under and not subject to duties.
  3. Companies can also use the rules of origin to see if imported merchandise can be from another country other than China. This could result from moving the manufacture location, or moving the location of the “substantial transformation” of those goods.
  4. Adjust the valuation of the merchandise. See if the imported goods are properly valued.
  5. If merchandise is imported to the US for export out of the US, be sure property TIB, IT, T&E bonds are filed.
  6. No one likes surprises – it is best for importers, compliance, supply chain, sales and accounting to notify company management of potential tariff changes and the economic impact these new tariffs will have on profit and costs.

If you have any questions or want to know how your company can protect itself from these new duties, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

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.

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 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.

Customs agent charged with falsifying ship inspection records.

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According to the Virginian-Pilot, a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agricultural specialist agent was charged with falsifying ship inspection forms on three separate occasions since 2015.

A CBP agricultural specialist is tasked with checking containers and trucks for agricultural or packaging materials that might contain invasive pests and also check wood packaging materials for larvae or inspects that could impact the native trees and nursery. In short, an agricultural specialist will make sure wood packaging materials, fruits and vegetables arrive into the US pest-free.

According to an indictment filed in the case, former-agent, Carl James Jr. falsified ship inspection forms on two ships: the CMA CGM Dalila and the OOCL Chongqing and one bulk carrier ship – the Pontovremon.

James’ set to appear in court on July 13th.

If you or anyone you know has had their shipment detained due to pests or invasive species found in wood packaging materials, or you have received an Emergency Action Notice (EAN) from Customs or you have had a seizure due to a failed agricultural inspection – contact experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at: dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Got bugs? CBP vigorously checking ports and looking at wood packaging materials – did you receive an EAN?

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If you are importing anything into the Port of Houston (or any sea port) please be advised CBP is increasing scrutiny of cargo and solid wood packing materials for pests.

Last November, Customs changed the penalty provisions for violations of shipments that do not comply with wood packaging material regulations. Wood packaging materials (WPM) are required to meet the “Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade”. The PDF of the regulations can be found here (last accessed July 13, 2018).

What is Wood Packaging Materials (WPM)?

-Hardwood or softwood packaging
-Created using glue, heat, pressure, or a combination of all three
-Used to support, protect or carry an item
-Examples include pallets, skids, containers and crates.

In other words, the definition is very broad – call our office if you want to verify your materials are considered “wood” packaging materials.

WPM violations include:

(1) markings not approved by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC);
(2) WPM not stamped in accordance with the ISPM 15 standard;
(3) WPM that is infested.

If there are any WPM violations, Customs will send you an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) and in most cases Customs will ask you to export the violating items.

If you receive an EAN for any WPM violations, contact customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Any Customs case involve pests or WPM are time sensitive and you have to act fast – do not hesitate to contact our office.

Importer pays $500,000 fine for false claims to evade customs duties.

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Earlier in February of this year, the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs released news of a settlement by Home Furnishings Resource Group Inc. agreement to pay $500,000 in settlement for False Claims Act allegations.

Background:
Home Furnishings Resource Group Inc. (HFRG) agreed to pay the $500,000 after they were alleged to have violated the False Claims Act on customs declarations in order to avoid paying antidumping duties (ADD) on “wooden bedroom furniture” imported from China.

Customs alleged the Hermitage, Tennessee company did not pay antidumping duties from 2009 to 2014 by misclassifying furniture as “non-bedroom” on import documents. By misclassifying as “non-bedroom”, HFRG did not pay the required ADD on wooden-bedroom furniture.

Why do we have antidumping duties?
Antidumping duties protect American manufacturers against foreign companies who make the same goods at a price below cost and “dump” the products into the US. The Department of Commerce (Commerce) is responsible for assessing whether goods are dumped into the US – and if so, assign an ADD amount to those imported goods.

The addition of a duty for these goods is to protect U.S. businesses and “level the playing field for domestic companies”.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) then collects these duties – wooden bedroom furntiure’s ADD rate was 216% and non-bedroom furniture was not subject to any duty.

How was HFRG caught?
University Loft Company, a competitor of HFRG, used the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, permitting private parties to sue on behalf of the US against those who falsely claim federal funds or, as in this case, who avoid paying funds owed to the government. The act also allows the whistleblower to receive a share of any funds recovered. University Loft Company will receive approximately $75,000.

Do you know anyone violating the False Claims Act?
If you believe an importer has been misclassifying goods to avoid payment of duties, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.