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Intellectual Property Rights
12/14/2012

Counterfeit goods shipments targeted as part of Operation Holiday Hoax

Crackdown at Bay Area mail facility leads to interdiction of hundreds of parcels

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the last three days, federal authorities at a Bay Area mail processing facility interdicted more than 300 parcels containing suspected counterfeit goods in stepped-up enforcement actions as part of Operation Holiday Hoax, an international effort targeting the sale and importation of counterfeit and pirated products.

The enforcement surge, conducted by officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), resulted in the interdiction of a wide variety of suspected counterfeit merchandise, including sports jerseys, athletic shoes, designer jewelry and leather goods. Once a final determination is made that the items are counterfeit, federal authorities will move to seize the merchandise.

CBP and HSI representatives say many of the intercepted items were likely destined for unscrupulous vendors for intended resale. HSI will be conducting follow-up investigations to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute those cases. However, authorities note that at least some of the parcels were being shipped directly to consumers, many whom may not have realized they were buying counterfeits.

"We're endeavoring to protect not only the companies that make copyrighted products, but also unwitting buyers who get fleeced by these fakes," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "Consumers order merchandise online believing they're getting the genuine article, only to receive a shoddy and sometimes dangerous counterfeit version."

Officials with CBP say with increasing frequency counterfeit goods are coming into the United States in smaller parcels through the mail, as opposed to shipping containers arriving at the nation's seaports. The trend, which authorities attribute in part to increased sales traffic over the Internet, has resulted in a heightened emphasis on screenings at major air cargo facilities, including this week's operation in San Francisco.

"One of CBP's missions is securing legitimate trade and enforcing U.S. trade laws," said Brian J. Humphrey, CBP director of Field Operations San Francisco. "As the first line of defense, we are intercepting these potentially illegal and dangerous goods at the first point of entry into the U.S. before they can be resold or distributed."

Nationally and internationally, Operation Holiday Hoax began Nov. 26 and is scheduled to run until Dec. 26. During that time, federal and local law enforcement officers will seize products such as perfume, holiday lights, electronics, clothing and DVD's. As in years past, most of these items are ordered online as part of the holiday shopping season.

This is the third year that the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center in Virginia has conducted Operation Holiday Hoax. Last year's operation led to the seizure of more than 327,000 counterfeit and pirated items nationwide with an estimated valued, based upon the manufacturer's suggested retail price, of nearly $77 million. In 2009 the operation netted more than $26 million worth of seized goods.

The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.