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Intellectual Property Rights

International counterfeiting crackdowns celebrated in observation of World Intellectual Property Day

In 2012, ICE and CBP seized more than $850 million in counterfeit goods, mostly from China

ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) joined international associations, government and law enforcement officials around the world Friday in celebrating World Intellectual Property (IP) Day. World IP Day was started by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is celebrated April 26 every year in order to promote discussion of the role of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity.

Over the last few years, according to experts at the IPR Center, counterfeiters have become increasingly sophisticated, and coordination between federal and international partners has become a priority in the fight against IP theft. The IPR Center now has 21 member agencies, including international partners in Mexico, Canada, Interpol and Europol. In 2012, 72 percent of the counterfeit seizures by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) originated in China. Additionally, another 13 percent were believed to have been transshipped from China through Hong Kong and Singapore making China responsible for 85 percent of the counterfeit products entering the United States. During that same year, HSI and CBP seized goods worth more than $850 million in manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).

Increased coordination between IPR Center partners and foreign customs organizations has yielded substantial results in the last year, including:

  • In February, Paraguayan officials seized more than $19 million in counterfeit watches, eyewear memory devices and other items that individuals were attempting to smuggle out of the country. The counterfeit goods were packaged in air cargo boxes, ready for departure from the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asuncion, Paraguay.
  • In January, Korean Intellectual Property Office officials seized 7,671 pieces of luxury brand jewelry including brooches, necklaces, earrings, and rings. The items had an estimated MSRP of more than $3.1 million. As a result of the seizure, Korean officials arrested one Korean national for possession and distribution of counterfeit merchandise.
  • In December 2012, HSI Colombia and the Colombian Police's Transnational Criminal Investigation Unit executed 14 search warrants and arrested 11 individuals involved in the smuggling and distribution of counterfeit, stolen or altered medications. The medications, which included high priced specialized drugs such as cancer treatments, were smuggled into Colombia from Venezuela.
  • In November and December 2012, HSI, CBP, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the government of Mexico conducted Operation Holiday Hoax. Between the U.S. and Mexican seizures, more than $16 million was seized in the operation which targeted stores, flea markets and swap meets involved in the importation, distribution and selling of counterfeit and pirated products.
  • In November 2012, HSI field offices in Baltimore, Buffalo (N.Y.), Denver, El Paso (Texas), Newark (M.J.), San Antonio, San Diego, and Ventura (Calif.); law enforcement agencies from Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the United Kingdom; and Europol seized 249 domain names where counterfeit merchandise was being sold online to unsuspecting consumers. The seizures were part of Project Cyber Monday 3 and Project Transatlantic. These websites were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season.

"These cases are excellent examples of the tremendous international partnerships that have been forged in the name of intellectual property theft enforcement," said Lev Kubiak, director of the IPR Center. "In addition to seizing these goods at the border, we must work with our international partners to shut down the criminal organizations producing these goods around the world."

WIPO is the United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property – patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc. – as a means of stimulating innovation and creativity. Their mission is to promote innovation and creativity for the economic, social and cultural development of all countries, through a balanced and effective international intellectual property system.

WIPO's member states designated April 26 – the day on which the WIPO Convention came into force in 1970 – as World IP Day with the aim of increasing general understanding of IP. Since then, Word IP Day has offered a unique opportunity each year to join with others around the globe to discuss and demonstrate how IP works to contribute to the flourishing of music and the arts and to driving the technological innovation that helps shape our world. The theme for this year's World IP Day focuses on the next generation of creativity.

The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting, piracy, and commercial trade fraud. 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, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

For more information, visit: www.iprcenter.gov or call 1-866-IPR-2060.