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Intellectual Property Rights

Missouri furniture company sentenced for importing thousands of lamps with counterfeit 'UL' safety labels

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A southwestern Missouri furniture import company was sentenced in federal court Friday for importing thousands of lamps bearing counterfeit safety certification labels.

This sentence is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

GuildMaster Inc., based in Springfield, Mo., and represented in court by its company president, Stephen Crowder, must forfeit 5,585 lamps that were seized by CBP, valued at $1,831,918, and serve a five-year term of probation.

Also, CBP will not impose penalties, but will apply the full amount of the $43,786 in cost bonds previously posted by GuildMaster to defray the government's expenses in storing the lamps. A cost bond is a financial obligation importers agree to pay in advance to defray possible court or legal costs associated with importing goods.

GuildMaster is a manufacturer and importer of furniture, lighting, accessories and wall art. On July 15 the company pleaded guilty to the felony offense of trafficking in goods with counterfeit marks.

GuildMaster Inc.

In December 2011, CBP agents discovered that lamps imported by GuildMaster bore counterfeit Underwriters Laboratories (UL) labels. UL is an independent product safety certification organization accredited for safety testing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For lamps meeting UL safety requirements, manufacturers are authorized to affix labels bearing the words "Portable Luminaire" and featuring the UL mark. The use of this label with the UL mark is the manufacturer's representation and advertisement to the public that the lamp as a whole was certified by UL as meeting its safety requirements.

Between Jan. 10 and March 21, 2012 agents seized 10 shipments originating from a GuildMaster subsidiary in Dongguan, China, bound for GuildMaster's warehouses in Springfield, Mo. They also executed a search-and-seizure warrant at GuildMaster's business office and warehouse in Springfield. The 11 seizures totaled about 5,018 lamps bearing the counterfeit UL labels. Also, during three events, a total of 567 lamps were seized that were affixed with genuine but unauthorized UL labels, which UL had provided to another company for its exclusive use and were not authorized for GuildMaster's use.

Before the federal seizures, GuildMaster did not inspect lamps coming from China to ascertain the authenticity of the UL certification marks placed upon the lamps. GuildMaster acknowledges that, had it inspected the lamps, it would have seen counterfeit and unauthorized UL marks.