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Intellectual Property Rights
09/08/2010

ICE tackles counterfeit sports merchandise, other goods in New Orleans area

Special agents teaming up with NFL and others to combat intellectual property theft

NEW ORLEANS - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in New Orleans have re-doubled their efforts to enforce counterfeiting laws and have recently seized fake sports merchandise and other counterfeit consumer products from city vendors.

Working with investigators for the National Football League (NFL) and other professional sports leagues, ICE HSI special agents, along with officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and local law enforcement have investigated multiple vendors and seized more than 1,400 counterfeit hats, t-shirts and jerseys worth approximately $210,000.

Additionally, ICE HSI special agents seized 477 counterfeit Duracell batteries and various articles of counterfeit NASCAR and John Deere merchandise from local retail and wholesale distributors.

Although most of the seized items were purporting to be NFL merchandise, the special agents and officers also seized counterfeit items bearing the trademarks of Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. A key component of the HSI investigative strategy regarding counterfeit products is its focus on products that pose a significant health and safety risk. Additional focus is also placed on those organizations that use counterfeit products as a means to fuel other criminal and terrorist activity. HSI investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such activity. HSI manages the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government's domestic and international law enforcement attack on IPR violations. HSI agents and CBP personnel throughout the country rely upon the IPR Coordination Center for guidance in their investigations and inspections.

Recently state and local law enforcement agencies participated in a conference about IPR violations and health and public safety awareness, which was hosted by ICE HSI in New Orleans and sponsored by the IPR Coordination Center. As a result of that outreach, a working group comprised of state and local law enforcement and ICE HSI special agents have partnered with the U. S. Attorney Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana to further combat the growing problem on an international level.

Counterfeiters and criminal organizations around the world will continue to face extreme scrutiny from ICE HSI. In particular, vendors who sell counterfeit goods to unsuspecting sports fans will be held accountable. These vendors sell inferior items tarnishing the reputation of trademark holders like the NFL," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE HSI Office in New Orleans. "Not only do these items hurt the trademark holder, counterfeit goods cost U.S. industries billions of dollars in losses each year and potentially threaten our national security. ICE HSI will continue to investigate and seek prosecution for crimes that impact the US economy."

"We are delighted to be working again with ICE and appreciate their dedication to enforcing intellectual property rights" said Anastasia Danias, NFL Vice President, Legal Affairs. "Their efforts protect our fans and local businesses, who want to support their home team and invest in legitimate merchandise."

The NFL reminds consumers, that when buying NFL goods, they should look for the hologram sticker or holographic hangtag and a sewn-in or screen printed neck label identifying a licensee that has been authorized by the NFL to produce "genuine" or "official" merchandise; shop at legitimate retailers rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, overseas websites or other questionable sources; and be aware of ripped tags or irregular markings on apparel.

The IPR Coordination Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting. The IPR Coordination Center offers one-stop shopping for both law enforcement and the private sector to address the growing transnational threat of counterfeit merchandise. The IPR Coordination Center coordinates outreach to U.S. rights holders and conducts domestic and international law enforcement training to stem the growing counterfeiting threat and also directs anti-counterfeiting investigations.

To learn more about the IPR Coordination Center go to www.ice.gov. Report information on counterfeiting and trademark violations at (866) IPR-2060.