Counterfeit AirPods seized in Houston – over $1.6 million worth.

Seized AirPods, source: cbp.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP working in Houston in late January seized counterfeit electronics – including Apple’s “AirPods” worth more than $1.6 million dollars of MSRP value. According to the media release – the importer of record abandoned the merchandise, meaning CBP will destroy the goods.

Do you have to abandon your goods if they have been seized for intellectual property rights violations?
No, you do not – the other alternative is to petition for the release of the goods if you know they are authentic. While a petition does not guarantee a return of your goods, it gives you the opportunity to present your information and argue why the goods are authentic to CBP.

The remainder of the media release reiterated CBP’s arguments against counterfeit goods – (1) may be produced from forced labor, (2) economic harm to the trademark holder, (3) unsafe products that may cause injuries to the consumer.

If you or anyone you know has had your shipment seized for alleged intellectual property or trademark violations – contact David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com

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

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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.

CBP seizes more than $650k worth of fake Apple AirPods.

Image of seized counterfeit AirPod, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the LA/Long Beach seaport (one of the top 4 busiest US ports) seized over 2,400 pairs of counterfeit wireless earphones along with 14,220 charging cables. CBP estimates the value of the seized goods, if authentic to be worth $651,780. The goods were seized for violating Apple’s airpod and lightning registered trademarks (see image of a sample of the actual AirPods and cables seized).

If you have had your shipment seized for suspicion of violating trademarks, contact seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com to discuss your options.

Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019.

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Photo by Florian Köppen on Pexels.com

In early December 2019, the Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019 was introduced in the U.S. Senate to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enforce design patents at the border.

Currently, Customs has the power to enforce only copyrights and trademarks that have been previously recorded with Customs under Section 1595a(c)(2)(C) of Title 19 of the U.S. Code.

The new bill amends amending 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(2)(C) to allow Customs discretionary power to seize and detain imported goods that infringe upon a recorded U.S. design patent.

The reason for this bill is because counterfeiters are capable of producing nearly 1 to 1 replicas of goods that avoid seizure by Customs because the counterfeit goods do not include the infringing trademark.

For example, in 2018, counterfeiters imported over $70 million in fake Nike shoes similar to the Air Jordan line and avoided customs by not including the trademarked logos – not surprisingly, Nike is one prominent supporter of the new bill.

If the bill passes, future counterfeit Air Jordan shoes omitting any trademarked labels would be subject to seizure as Customs would now be able to enforce design patents.

If you have had a seizure for suspected violations of intellectual property or trademarks, contact experienced seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com, dh@gjatradelaw.com.

CBP seizes counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags.

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Image of seized handbags, source: CBP.gov

As reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), officers in Philadelphia seized 37 counterfeit LV handbags from Hong Kong with a suggested retail proce of $130,610 if authentic. 

According to the media release, the box contents were described as “Lady Bag Sample.” Upon inspection by CBP and with the CEE for Consumer Products and Mass Merchandise Center and the trademark holder – determined the bags were counterfeit.

If you receive a seizure notice for violation of trademarks or other intellectual property, contact experienced seizure attorney David Hsu at attorney.dave@yahoo.com, dh@gjatradelaw.com – there are somethings you can do to protect yourself from potential civil and criminal penalties – but you need to take action within a certain time limit. For immediate assistance, call/text 832-896-6288.

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 attorney.dave@yahoo.com.