Theft of American intellectual property is a crime, and continuing efforts to protect the United States from the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods, has paid off for the two federal agencies charged with that responsibility.
There were 24,792 counterfeit, and pirated goods, seized in fiscal year 2011 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to federal officials. That number represents a 24-percent increase from the previous year.
The rise in seizures of pharmaceutical and perfume products –– some of which posed grave risks to the health of American consumers –– pushed the value of this category of seized items to more than $60 million.
While there was a high number of seizures, officials said, the domestic value of items confiscated in fiscal year 2011 declined by five percent, to $178.9 million. This is mostly due to those operating outside the law switching to international mail, express courier and consolidated shipping services to import counterfeit and pirated goods.
“The growth of web sites selling counterfeit goods directly to consumers is one reason why CBP and ICE have seen a significant increase in the number of seizures at mail and express courier facilities,” said David Aguilar, acting CBP commissioner.
He said, although these web sites provide low prices, the actual cost to the nation and its consumers is a loss of jobs, stolen business profits and endangerment to national security.
China continues to be the No. 1 source country for confiscated, counterfeit and pirated goods, responsible for 62 percent, or $124.7 million, of the total domestic value of seized goods.
“I am very proud of the unrelenting efforts of the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and our law enforcement partners,” said John Morton, director of ICE.
For the first time since fiscal year 2005, footwear was not the top commodity confiscated. Instead, consumer electronics was the most popular commodity category, including cellular phones.
The top 10 categories of products seized include: pharmaceuticals, health and personal care, eyewear/parts, critical technology components, electronic articles, cigarettes, perfumes and colognes, batteries, exercise equipment and transportation/parts.
The Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center is one of the federal government’s key weapons in the fight against illegal counterfeiting and piracy, said officials.
“... In fiscal year 2012, ICE and CBP will continue to focus on keeping these goods off the streets, and bringing those responsible for producing and distributing them to justice,” said ICE director Morton.