DETROIT - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced Thursday a partnership with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) and the Detroit Police to identify and seize counterfeit goods during the NCAA Final Four games.
It is estimated that retail sales of licensed team merchandise during the annual Men's Basketball Championship exceeds $10 million, making the tournament a big target for counterfeiters.
"Enforcing America's counterfeiting laws are about protecting the rights of those who play by the rules and keeping sub-par and unsafe merchandise off our streets and illicit funds out of the hands of organized criminal groups here and abroad," said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Detroit. "Major events such as the Final Four provide a great forum for us to educate the public about the hidden and often misunderstood dangers of this global criminal threat."
ICE will work closely with the CLC to patrol the area in search of counterfeiters selling "knock-off" merchandise and any other unauthorized use of trademarks owned by the NCAA or participating institutions. All counterfeit merchandise is subject to seizure.
"Our goal is to assist in preserving a positive experience for all Final Four consumers," said Bruce Siegal, senior vice president and general counsel, of the Collegiate Licensing Company, a private firm that ensures brand integrity for the NCAA. "By teaming with Detroit law enforcement and ICE, we are able to cover a large jurisdiction, deter bootleggers, and ensure that consumers are not defrauded in purchasing counterfeit merchandise that is often inferior quality."
On average, nearly 1,000 pieces of counterfeit collegiate merchandise, ranging from T-shirts to hats, are seized outside the host venue of the Final Four each year.
Counterfeiting, also known as Intellectual Property Rights (IPR ) violations, involve the illegal use of trademarks, trade names and copyrights. It is estimated that the U.S. industry alone loses $200 to $250 billion to counterfeiting annually.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for manufacturing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE and the NCAA are committed to protecting legitimate businesses involved in the manufacturing, importation and distribution of licensed commodities from unscrupulous counterfeiters.
In pursuit of this goal, law enforcement in Detroit is soliciting the assistance of legitimate Final Four sponsors, licensees, manufacturers, importers and retailers of authorized NCAA Final Four 2009 merchandise, as well as the general public, to identify, interdict and enforce our nation's IPR laws.
Anyone with information related to counterfeit NCAA Final Four merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement. ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline takes tips at (866) DHS-2ICE.
ICE manages the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government's domestic and international law enforcement attack on IPR violations. ICE agents and CBP personnel throughout the country rely upon the IPR Coordination Center for guidance in their inspections and investigations.