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Intellectual Property Rights

Counterfeiters thrown for a loss

ICE's 'Operation Interception' sacks vendors for more than $3.56 million in fake merchandise

ICE agent holds up one of the confiscated fake jerseys
ICE agent holds up one of the confiscated fake jerseys
DALLAS — Speaking at a National Football League (NFL) news conference on Friday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Kumar Kibble and NFL Vice President for Legal Affairs Anastasia Danias announced the record-breaking results of a nationwide enforcement operation involving multiple law enforcement partners targeting stores, flea markets and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear throughout the United States. The operation, dubbed "Operation Interception," commenced Jan. 1, 2011.

Special agents from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operated in multiple teams with the NFL and various law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to identify stores and vendors selling counterfeit trademarked items. With two days left before Super Bowl XLV, these teams have seized 36,273 items of phony Super Bowl-related memorabilia along with other counterfeit items to date for a total take of about $3.56 million. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, 10,430 items were seized with an estimated value of $554,280.

Fake jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing confiscated by teams comprised of ICE HSI, NFL, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other law enforcement agencies.

"These counterfeit enforcement operations between ICE HSI and our partners serve a variety of important purposes," said Deputy Director Kibble. "They protect American jobs by enforcing trademarks; they protect consumers from inferior merchandise; and they prevent funding potential criminal organizations."

Furthering ICE HSI efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy online, special agents seized 10 websites earlier this week that illegally streamed live sporting telecasts over the Internet, including NFL games. The websites were among the most popular on the Internet for illegally distributing copyrighted sporting events. It is estimated that each year, sports leagues and broadcasters lose millions of dollars from illegally distributing copyrighted, live sporting events over the Internet. Such piracy threatens the investment that broadcasters and digital media companies are willing to make to distribute live content. More information about this seizure is available at www.ice.gov.

"We greatly appreciate the incredible efforts, time and resources that ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney's Office have dedicated to the problem of counterfeiting and online piracy," said NFL Vice President Danias. "We believe that these criminal enforcement actions send an important message to those who criminally knock-off and pirate intellectual property rights."

"Operation Interception" will continue this weekend at Super Bowl events and venues throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area and around the nation.

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. ICE HSI focuses on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets and on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.

ICE HSI, the NFL, CBP and other law enforcement agencies partnered with the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Virginia to combat intellectual property theft, including the illegal use of registered trademarks, trade names and copyrights of NFL Super Bowl XLV merchandise.

ICE HSI manages the IPR Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government's domestic and international law enforcement attack on IPR violations.

ICE HSI's IP enforcement efforts during the last three Super Bowls have resulted in seizing more than 30,000 items with an estimated value of nearly $2.8 million. Those amounts, coupled with the 2011 record-breaking results of "Operation Interception," ICE HSI has seized more than 66,000 counterfeit items worth $6.36 million over the past four years.

At the conclusion of this operation, 40,375 items with an estimated value of $3.72 million was seized by law enforcement.