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Intellectual Property Rights

HSI hosts intellectual property rights program for businesses

DETROIT - Representatives of industry and local and federal law enforcement agencies attended a group session held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) officials Tuesday to discuss the emerging threat of intellectual property rights (IPR) theft and its connection to organized crime and terrorism.

Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Detroit, welcomed the group and provided opening remarks.

"Intellectual property theft affects our national security, our homeland security and our economic security," said Moskowitz. "HSI investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity. Of particular concern to HSI is the potential impact on the health and safety of the American public due to the threat posed by the importation and distribution of counterfeit and substandard products such as pharmaceuticals and electrical components."

IPR Center National Program Manger Rana Saoud discussed the IPR Center's national coordination efforts with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

A number of presentations followed, including an industry focus on current trends and emerging threats. HSI agents also cited case examples that linked intellectual property (IP) theft with criminal activity. Brand protection officers from several international corporations provided information on threat detection and investigative techniques.

Many retailers unwittingly purchase merchandise that is counterfeit. More often though, dealers know full well the products are fakes. Merchants who knowingly sell counterfeit goods face criminal prosecution in addition to having their merchandise seized.

In fiscal year 2010, ICE's partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) yielded 19, 959 seizures, a 34 percent increase over 2009's numbers. Seizures of products that could have harmed consumers, vital infrastructure and national security soared 97 percent over the previous year, and accounted for 23 percent of all Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) seizures by domestic value.

The total domestic value of the fake goods seized in fiscal year 2010 totaled $188.1 million, the estimated manufacturer's suggested retail price, the value the goods would have had if they had been the real thing totaled $1.4 billion.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such activity. 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.