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Intellectual Property Rights

ICE seizes 17,000 counterfeit items worth $643,000

MINNEAPOLIS - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last week seized more than 17,000 counterfeit items worth an estimated $643,000 from 21 businesses in the Twin Cities region.

The seized counterfeit items include: 11,827 articles of clothing; 1,569 accessories and pieces of jewelry; 3,524 bottles of perfume; 446 purses and wallets; 125 pieces of memorabilia; and 25 packages of AA batteries. The estimated street value of the items is more than $643,000. If the items had sold at the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the genuine brand merchandise, the estimated value is more than $2,935,000.

The seized counterfeit items represent 129 name brands, including Air Jordan, BMW, Burberry, Bvlgari, Coach, Chanel, Diesel, Dolce & Gabbana, Duracell, Estee Lauder, Hugo Boss, Issey Miyake, JLo, Givenchy, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, MLB, NBA, NFL, Nike, Prada, Rolex, Thierry Mugler, True Religion, Usher, Yves St. Laurent and others.

"The trafficking of counterfeit goods is a global enterprise that robs legitimate companies of billions of dollars in revenue every year," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Bloomington, Minn. "What's more, these sales generate profits that often go to support other types of criminal activity. No one should ever consider this a victimless crime."

The counterfeit items were seized at 21 businesses starting Tuesday, Nov. 17, and ending Saturday, Nov. 21. The businesses at which the counterfeit merchandise was seized were not named, as they have not been charged with any offense. The investigations will continue.

Counterfeiting, piracy and other intellectual property rights (IPR) violations have grown in magnitude and complexity as technology facilitates this crime, costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue. Industry and trade associations estimate that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200 billion and $250 billion per year, and more than 750,000 American jobs. This impact is not just on the business community. In some instances, this crime poses a direct threat to public health and safety.

The growth in IPR violations has been fueled in part by the spread of technology that enables simple and low-cost duplication of copyrighted products. This growth is also fueled by the rise in organized crime groups that smuggle and distribute counterfeit merchandise for profit. In many cases, international organized crime groups use the enormous profits derived from selling counterfeit goods to bankroll other criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking.

Anyone with information related to counterfeit merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement. The public may also call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1 (866) DHS-2ICE.