WASHINGTON — Counterfeit fashion items topped federal government seizures in fiscal year 2016, which culminated in a total of $1.38 billion based on the manufacturers’ suggested retail price.
The collaborations between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations resulted in total intellectual property rights seizures of more than 31,560, according to a U.S. government report.
Federal authorities arrested 451 people, obtained 304 indictments and received 272 convictions related to intellectual property crimes in the fiscal year.
“Products that infringe on U.S. trademarks, copyrights and patents threaten the health and safety of American consumers, the U.S. economy and our national interests,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “This record-breaking year of IPR seizures highlights the vigilance of CBP and ICE personnel in preventing counterfeit goods from entering our stream of commerce and their dedication to protecting the American people.”
In fiscal year 2016, bogus apparel and accessories were again the top two product categories for number of IPR infringing shipments seized.
Officials made 6,406 seizures of bogus apparel and accessories, valued at $110.8 million and representing 20 percent of all counterfeit seizures.
Based on MSRP value, watches and jewelry continued to be the top products seized, with a value of more than $635.5 million. Handbags and wallets were second with seizure estimated in value at more than $234 million.
Officials also seized $51.2 million worth of counterfeit footwear.
China remained the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized, accounting for a total estimated MSRP value of $616 million, or 45 percent of the estimated MSRP value of all seizures. Hong Kong was again the second-largest source of IPR infringing shipments, accounting for nearly $600 million, or 43 percent of the total MSRP value.
A special mobile IPR enforcement team led by Customs conducted 11 operations and made 2,680 counterfeit seizures of goods valued more than $85 million.
Officials said joint operations with international partners also netted significant seizures including. For example, in an April 2016 operation with the General Administration of China and U.S. Customs, authorities made 1,400 seizures of automobile parts, consumer electronics, identification tags and labels, and pharmaceuticals.
In addition, prior to Super Bowl 50, U.S. agencies along with Hong Kong Customs and the Mexican Servicio de Administración Tributaria, conducted “Operation Team Player” to crack down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports-related merchandise.
“Counterfeiters can sell bogus goods through social media platforms, popular e-commerce sites, and seasonal storefronts, and will attempt to exploit consumer enthusiasm, especially during major shopping seasons, to peddle dangerous, substandard items,” said Daniel Ragsdale, deputy director of ICE. “The collaborative IP enforcement between ICE and CBP has kept dangerous counterfeit goods out of critical supply chains managed by government and business, and the IPR Center remains committed to developing and supporting effective enforcement actions going forward.”