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August 19, 2015Dallas, TX, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

HSI Dallas hosts Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Training Fair for 200 DFW-area law enforcement officers

DALLAS — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is hosting 200 law enforcement officers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to a one-day Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Training Fair on Wednesday.

“Counterfeiting is a huge problem, and it’s getting worse,” said Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. “Quite literally, any product that you can buy in a store or online today can be – and probably has been – counterfeited, and sometimes with very serious results.”

Following is a small sample of how dangerous some counterfeits can be:

  • phony computer chips sold to the military put our troops at risk;
  • counterfeit cancer medications with absolutely no active ingredient; 
  • counterfeit airbags for cars may fail — or the bags may deploy with enough force to injure or kill someone;
  • counterfeit toothpaste containing anti-freeze;
  • tainted animal food containing melamine; and
  • counterfeit circuit breakers that explode, cause fires, or otherwise fail. 

To target this problem, the HSI Dallas office leads an IPR task force comprised of local law enforcement officers to share information, intelligence, expertise and even law enforcement jurisdictions. But additional training and public awareness are needed to combat this problem. That’s the reason HSI organized this one-day training fair for 200 DFW-area law enforcement officers.

HSI’s IPR law enforcement training and ongoing publicity are designed to help explain the facts about counterfeit merchandise: 

  • it steals jobs from U.S. workers;
  • it produces sub-standard merchandise—some of which may be harmful or deadly;
  • it harms legitimate companies; and,
  • it supports criminal organizations.

HSI special agents can act as a force multiplier for local law enforcement operations targeting IPR theft. HSI also has a nationwide jurisdiction to trace the domestic source of counterfeits. HSI also has 63 attaché offices in 46 countries to provide international access to reach the overseas source of intellectual property criminal organizations.

It’s estimated that American industries alone lose about $250 billion annually from these counterfeits. And that lost revenue also means lost American jobs, and lost local and federal taxes that weren’t paid on those goods.

The estimated cost of the products seized in the U.S. in fiscal year 2014 was more than $1.2 billion. Most of those products seized – 63 percent – were produced in China. Another 25 percent were produced in Hong Kong.

In 2014, counterfeit watches and jewelry top the list of counterfeit seizures by manufacturer’s suggested retail price with 31 percent of seizures ($375 million), which overtook handbags and wallets in 2013 at 40 percent ($700 million).

The number of seizures in the U.S. tells a different story. Wearing apparel represented 28 percent (more than 7,900 seizures) of the 28,000 total seizures in 2014. Consumer electronics represented 24 percent of seizures in the same year (6,600).

For the concerned shopper who wants to avoid buying substandard counterfeit merchandise, Berger recommends an old adage: “If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Members of the public can report suspected counterfeit operations by calling HSI’s toll-free hotline at: 866-347-2423.