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Seizures

Best PracticesCBPCounterfeitsImportIPR, Trademarks and LogosSeizuresU.S.Customs

U.S. Customs – Your Personal Policeman at the Border

posted by Jennifer Diaz December 6, 2016 2 Comments

counterfeitMany companies mistakenly believe that registering a trademark or copyright with the U.S. Government provides sufficient protection and remedies, and, therefore, do not take the extra step to record those trademarks or copyrights with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. Customs).

The processes achieve two completely different goals.

Registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office gives public notice of one’s ownership of the trademark or copyright. On the other hand, the purpose of recording a trademark or copyright with U.S. Customs is to partner with the agency in preventing the unauthorized importation of merchandise that bears a recorded trademark or copyright. U.S. Customs prevents counterfeit and otherwise infringing products from entering or exiting the United States for registered trademark or copyright holders who have recorded their trademarks or copyrights with Customs. Continue Reading

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Large Seizure by CBP Highlights High Margins of Counterfeiting, and Necessity of Recordation

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 4, 2013 0 comments

Co Authored by Michael De Biase 

One of CBP’s latest news releases, dated September 27, 2013, noted that more than 16,000 counterfeit Hermes handbags were seized by Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) because Hermes took the extra step of recording their intellectual property with CBP.   Not surprisingly, when you analyze the difference between the alleged value of the counterfeit products (reported to CBP) as compared to the suggested retail price of the genuine goods, you have a grave difference. In this case, $295,665 (value of counterfeit goods) compared to $210,785,475 (value of genuine goods).  That’s over $210 million worth of potential profits for the counterfeiters, at the expense of Hermes – a crime in every sense. Because Hermes recorded its intellectual property with CBP, CBP seized this infringing merchandise, and will also have the ability to issue a penalty for the MSRP of the merchandise. Yes, that means a penalty in the amount of $210,785,475 will be coming to the counterfeiters!

Most often, counterfeiters target large luxury brands whose goodwill and name recognition has a certain element of exclusivity.  While some may not sympathize with profitable companies, what they fail to realize is that counterfeiting hurts in a variety of other ways. Counterfeiting hurts consumers who buy products under the false impression that they are genuine, companies whose goodwill is tarnished by the inferior quality of the counterfeit products bearing their brands, and it hurts those who worked hard to build something of substantial value.  In this case, Hermes lost out on, potentially, more than $210 million dollars in revenue.  That is not only felt by Hermes the corporation, it hurts the retail stores and the malls they’re in, the shipping companies, the raw materials developers, and the families of the employees for all of these parties.

Luckily for importers and consumers, CBP recognizes the importance of intellectual property protection and provides assistance in stopping the infringing products at our borders.  CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights Recordation (“IPRR”) system allows holders of registered trademarks and copyrights to record their registration with CBP, so that CBP can police the borders for infringing goods.  Once recorded, it is entered into a online search system named IPRS. According to the news released mentioned above regarding catching counterfeiting Hermes at the border, once intellectual property is recorded with CBP,

CBP officers are trained to identify and interdict counterfeit goods, and this is a great example of how their training and expertise are employed every day in our ports of entry,” said CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles Todd C. Owen

Considering the incentives for counterfeiters along with the potential losses for intellectual property rights holders, companies that import merchandise must consider recordation a necessity. Importantly, when you record your marks, you must go to an expert in this area – as this is your opportunity to train CBP on the methods of policing your mark – and only trained experts can work on this proficiently so you have the best results with CBP, like Hermes did. To learn more about the top four benefits of recording your intellectual property, review this article.

To get started on recording your intellectual property, or if you have any questions on how to best have CBP police your recorded trademarks and copyrights, please contact Michael or me

Best PracticesCBPCounterfeitsCPSCImportInvestigationIPR, Trademarks and LogosSeizuresU.S.Customs

Florida Companies Convicted and Sentenced

posted by Jennifer Diaz June 24, 2013 0 comments

Co Authored by Robert Becerra

In another example of the government’s continuing use of the criminal justice system to enforce international trade laws, three Florida companies and their management were recently convicted and sentenced for importing smuggled toys from China containing lead and containing counterfeit trademarks.

LM Import-Export, Inc., Lam’s Investment Corp., and LK Toys Corp., Hung Lam and Isabella Kit Yeung plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to traffic and smuggle toys containing hazardous substances such as lead, and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 371 and 2320, respectively. Co-defendant Yeung plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of submitting a false country of origin label, in violation of 19 U.S.C. Sec. 1304(a). The information, or charging document filed in court, against all defendants, as well as the plea agreements for each defendant can be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida. (If you have trouble getting these documents, email me and I’d be happy to share them with you).

The facts underlying the charges, as stated in court documents, are that from April, 2000, until May 2011, a span of 11 years, the corporate defendants conspired to sell children’s products imported from China in violation of the Consumer Product Safety Act 15 U.S.C. Sec. 2068, and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. Sec. 1263. Some of the toys contained lead, while others presented various hazards such as choking, aspiration or ingestion. The products were imported using false statements on Customs declaration forms and with false country of origin labeling.

Hung Lam was sentenced to 22 months incarceration, 3 years of supervised release and a $10,000 fine. The corporations were sentenced to 5 years of probation. Yeung was sentenced to 1 year probation and a $1,000 fine. An order was entered mandating the forfeiture to the government of $862,500 and all products imported by the defendants that were seized by the government. The press release from the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Department of Justice discussing the case can be found here and here respectively.

This case is extremely important for importers to be familiar with and understand that:

  1. It is vital for importers to retain counsel to assist with pre-compliance before you import.
  2. When you receive any violation notice from the federal government, retain counsel immediately and be sure to address all violations with remedial action and enhanced compliance procedures in an attempt to keep administrative penalties or forfeiture cases from turning into potential criminal matters.
  3. Resolving a civil action through a consent decree with the government does not absolve you of criminal liability.
  4. Once contacted by government officials, retain counsel immediately. Any evidence you provide or any statements you make will be used against you in court.
  5. Repeated misconduct and federal regulatory law violations over a period of years will often result in criminal prosecution of both companies and their individual employees, resulting in federal prison sentences and substantial fines and forfeitures.

 

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Do You Know the Top 10 Tips When Importing?

posted by Jennifer Diaz June 18, 2013 0 comments

Do you know the top 10 tips when importing to ensure compliance?  If not, here’s why you should attend my Compliance Online webinar on June 27, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., EST. 

If you import merchandise into the U.S., you are the responsible party and must be aware your requirements and potential liability.  In this presentation, we will discuss how to comply with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) vast laws and regulations. By the end of the webinar you will know and understand the importance of:

  • Tariff classification;
  • Customs valuation;
  • Country of origin marking;
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protection and CBP Enforcement; and
  • Free Trade Agreements (FTA)  you should be taking advantage of.

You will also learn basic customs concepts and terms like:

  • CBP Form 3461 & CBP 7501;
  • Protests;
  • Seizure cases;
  • Liquidated damage claims, Penalties/Fines;
  • Prior disclosure; and
  • FP&F Petition Process.

Learn key best practices and hear real life case studies. Learn what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do, and what the consequences are for non compliance.

To register for this webinar on June 27, 2013 at 10:00 EST, click here.

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Don’t Let Your Currency be Seized When Traveling Internationally – TOP TIPS

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 20, 2012 2 Comments

The holidays are approaching… Do you intend to carry “monetary instruments” when traveling internationally?

Read on, these TOP 5 Tips when carrying “monetary instruments” above $10,000 can save you a U.S. Customs Seizure Case.

Here are your top tips to assure you get it right, and you’re not screaming “Help – U.S. Customs Took my Money at the Airport”.

1. If you intend to carry over $10,000 in monetary instruments, including travelers checks and U.S. or foreign money, you MUST fill out the required form, FINCEN Form 105.  Note, it is PERFECTLY acceptable to travel with currency, you JUST have to report it. Don’t be scared to do so.

2. Review U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s “Currency Reporting” flyer.  Make sure you memorize what “monetary instruments” consist of:

  • U.S. or foreign coins and currency;
  • Travelers checks (in any form);
  • Negotiable Instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders – in a transferable form);
  • Incomplete instruments (checks, promissory notes, and money orders) that are signed with a payees name omitted;
  • Securities or stock in bearer form (in a transferable form)

3. Make sure you can explain the legitimate source of the money.

4. Make sure you can explain the legitimate intended use of the money.

5. Don’t divide currency for the purpose of evading reporting requirements.

Check out CBP’s recent seizures of currency and DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!:

 

ImportSeizures

Invalidated Trademarks may Still Cause Your Products to be Seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but There’s a Solution.

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog October 19, 2011 0 comments
Michael De Biase

Among its other duties, U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") has the daunting task and responsibility to search and seize products that are counterfeit or otherwise infringe the intellectual property rights of original goods manufacturers. This is accomplished through CBP’s Intellectual Property Rights Recordation System. As the name suggests, trademark and copyright owners record their intellectual property rights with CBP and CBP keeps records of such recordings via this system, which can be accessed online at http://iprs.cbp.gov/. Using this system, an importer can determine if any of the products that it is importing actually violate the intellectual property rights of somebody else. However, there is a big problem with this system that can cause CBP to wrongfully seize goods, thereby inflicting substantial monetary damages and significant delays in delivery times.

Intellectual property rights are not absolute and can therefore be challenged and cancelled through the U.S. federal court system. When a trademark is cancelled, the U.S. district court has to notify and direct the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") to remove the trademark registration from the USPTO’s registrar. Until CBP is notified that the trademark has been cancelled, CBP will continue to seize products that potentially infringe the rights of the now cancelled trademark. This causes products to be wrongfully seized, and, in turn costs the importer tens of thousands of dollars as well as significant delays.

To avoid falling victim to this situation, you must contact an attorney. An attorney can perform the proper legal research to determine whether your shipment contains products that are likely to be seized for infringement of intellectual property rights. In such an instance, the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" really holds true.

Seizures

Recovering Your Seized Cargo from U.S. Customs

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog August 22, 2011 0 comments

On September 8, 2011, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST, the Journal of Commerce will host a webinar entitled “Recovering Your Seized Cargo”.   The panel experts will explain the CBP detention and seizure process, as well as the administrative petition and judicial forfeiture process.

If you have ever had your money seized by Customs for failure to declare over $10,000, had merchandise seized for misdeclaring its value or not paying enough customs duties, had your bank account seized for alleged trade-based money laundering, or had any other items detained or seized by U.S. Customs for violating another Federal agency’s regulations, you should sign up for this webinar.

The fee is only $155 for this most informative webinar taught by experts with a comprehensive understanding of the internal policies and procedures of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  A little knowledge now could save you time, frustration, and a lot of money by learning how to avoid a seizure, or when a seizure has already occurred, how to get your seized cargo back as quickly as possible.

Whatever the type of merchandise, whether it is an import or an export shipment, whether it will be sold in the United States or just moving in-transit through the United States, whether it needs a special import or export license, U.S. Customs seizes and forfeits tens of millions of dollars of merchandise every year.  Download the Powerpoint presentations, and get involved in the Q&A session. Click  “Recovering Your Seized Cargo” to register at the Journal of Commerce website.

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Notice of Detention of Merchandise by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog February 24, 2011 4 Comments

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a February 22, 2011 60-Day Notice and Request for Comments regarding its use of a "Notice of Detention".  I know, a lot of you are saying to yourselves, "When did CBP starting using Notices of Detention," and my response to you is "That’s a darn good question!"

The law, 19 U.S.C. 1499 and 19 CFR 151.16, allows CBP officers at the border to stop and search persons for merchandise.  If the CBP officer discovers something suspicious, and takes it from you, then it has been "detained".  In exchange, the CBP officer is required to send to the importer or passenger a Notice of Detention form no later than 5 business days from the date of the examination, stating that: (1) the merchandise has been detained, (2) the reason for the detention, and (3) the anticipated length of the detention. 

That all sounds reasonable, but the problem is that the legal requirement is often ignored by CBP.  Often, a Notice of Detention is never issued by CBP to the importer, or is issued late or does not state the reason for the detained merchandise.  I  have seen a few hundred Notices of Detention over the past 21 years as a customs lawyer, but have never seen one that described "the anticipated length of detention."

The Request for Comments asks the public for "ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected."  I have a way to enhance the quality of the CBP Notice of Detention – follow the law and issue it every time, on time, and accurately.   For those who want to respond formally to CBP, click on the link for the address to address comments before April 25, 2011

Seizures

U.S. Customs Seizures and Forfeitures are Unique

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog September 6, 2010 8 Comments

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. Customs or CBP) seizes and forfeits hundreds of millions of dollars of merchandise every year.  The IRS, DEA, U.S. Postal Service, and other Federal agencies also have the legal authority to seize and forfeit merchandise that were allegedly used illegally or were proceeds of alleged illegal activity, but U.S. Customs administrative and judicial forfeiture procedures are unique.  The answer is that seizures by U.S. Customs typically are not included within the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA).

The difference between a seizure under CAFRA’s  rules under 18 U.S.C. 983 – The General Rules for Civil Forfeitures, and the U.S. Customs rules under the Tariff Act of 1930 and the Supplemental Rules of Admiralty, is significant. These significant differences are often misunderstood, including by attorneys who do not regularly practice in seizure and forfeiture matters.   Under CAFRA, the U.S. Government must send an administrative seizure notice to affected persons within 60 days of the seizure, but for U.S. Customs cases, there is no such requirement. In fact, unfortunately, U.S. Customs often takes 90 to days to issue the Seizure Notice letter to affected parties such as the owner of the seized merchandise. Under CAFRA, a claimant has 35 days from the date of the notice of seizure to file its administrative claim or request judicial forfeiture.  For U.S. Customs cases, the claimant must file a Petition within 30 days of the seizure notice or, if seeking judicial review of the seizure, file a claim and cost bond equal to 10% of the value of the seized merchandise, up to a maximum of $5,000.  In CAFRA cases, no court bond is required.  Once in Federal Court, for CAFRA cases, the U.S. Government’s burden of proof is by the preponderance of the evidence.  In U.S. Customs cases, the Government has a lower burden of proof by establishing probable cause for the seizure, and then the burden shifts to the claimant to establish, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the property may not be forfeited. 

There are other numerous differences, a few of which are set forth in a comparison chart. One big difference is that in U.S. Customs cases, a claimant may file an administrative Petition with U.S. Customs seeking to get the seized merchandise released, and if unsuccessful, then go to Court.  In non-U.S. Customs cases, a claimant who chooses to file a Petition with the Federal agency and loses cannot then seek relief in Federal Court.  In general, filing a Petition with U.S. Customs or other Federal agency is the preferred alternative because it is often (1) faster, (2) less expensive, and (3) gives the greatest chance of success in getting the merchandise released from seizure.