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Intellectual Property Rights

ICE's Operation Faux Bowl results in seizure of more than $430,000 in counterfeit items

MIAMI - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the National Football League (NFL), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and South Florida-area police seized a total of 8,165 items of counterfeit Super Bowl-related memorabilia and other counterfeit items for an estimated retail value of $431,483 in a month-long operation dubbed Operation Faux Bowl. Six criminal arrests were made for prosecution by the State of Florida.

The ICE-led operation targeted vendors and local merchants of game-related sportswear in the South Florida area. Although most of the seized items were purporting to be NFL merchandise, ICE also seized counterfeit Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association jerseys and fake designer handbags, watches and electronics. The seizures are part of a crackdown on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations in the South Florida area leading up to the unprecedented playing of last Sunday's Super Bowl and last month's Pro Bowl in the same stadium.

John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE said, "Two major games in the same week, in the same city was a strong magnet for criminals who steal trademarks and knock off trusted brands to sell their substandard wares. "ICE made a major dent in these criminals' plans to profit from fan enthusiasm. We struck a blow for the consumers, the businesses and the American workers who are hurt by this kind of crime."

ICE Special Agent in Charge Miami, the NFL Loss Prevention, CBP, and local law enforcement partnered with the ICE National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) to combat intellectual property rights violations, including the illegal use of registered trademarks, trade names and copyrights of NFL merchandise. The participating agencies used their resources to target criminal organizations, vendors and individuals using local and online business establishments to smuggle, distribute and sell counterfeit NFL Pro Bowl and Super Bowl merchandise.

In the last month, ICE special agents working with their NFL, CBP and local counterparts dropped by stores, street vendors, flea markets and swap meets to scan their goods for counterfeits, particularly those aimed at football fans pouring into the area to follow their teams.

ICE special agents seized counterfeit merchandise in Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Pompano Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood, Boca Raton and other neighborhoods in Miami Dade and Broward counties.

In 2009, ICE and CBP seized goods with a total domestic value of more than $260 million. Counterfeit shoes - most of them sports apparel - were the leading commodity seized last year and for three years before that.

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 this activity.

ICE manages the IPR Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government's domestic and international law enforcement attack on IP violations. ICE agents and CBP personnel throughout the country rely upon the IPR Center for guidance in their inspections and investigations.

ICE's IP enforcement efforts during the past two Super Bowls have resulted in the seizure of 15,653 counterfeit items worth $1,826,562 in the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. and 10,212 items worth $542,120 seized in the 2008 Super Bowl in Phoenix.