Federal investigators seized more than $1.7 billion in counterfeit and pirated goods coming into the United States during fiscal year 2013, a 38% jump over the previous year, according to a new report.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations – the two agencies responsible for enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) laws – reported that the number of seizures involving IPR violations increased almost 7%, from 22,848 in fiscal year 2012 to 24,361 in FY 2013.
The agencies’ enforcement efforts extended to the Internet, a popular place for trading in counterfeit and pirated items. Collaboration between the agencies led to 692 arrests, 401 indictments and 451 criminal convictions during the last fiscal year, according to the March 2014 report. In addition, agents seized 1,413 domain names through which counterfeit goods were sold.
A vast majority of the seized goods originated in the People’s Republic of China, federal authorities said. The country accounted for an estimated $1.1 billion in seized counterfeit items and roughly 68% of all IPR seizures, both down slightly over the previous year. Hong Kong accounted for 25% of the total value of all seizures, more than double that economy’s 12% total in FY 2012.
Handbags and wallets, jewelry, electronics, apparel and pharmaceuticals were the top five categories of seized items based on dollar value. Sports jerseys made up nearly 30% of all seized shipments.
Operation Red Zone, which focused on counterfeit professional sports apparel and souvenirs in the lead up to the Super Bowl in February, resulted in the seizure of $17.3 million in fake jerseys and other items. Two additional operations focusing on counterfeit sports apparel, Operation Home Plate 1 and Operation Home Plate 2, yielded seizures valued at $2.4 million.
Roughly $1 million worth of phony European soccer jerseys and paraphernalia was seized at the Port of Savannah in Georgia in April, Customs and Border Protection officials said. The shipment of 390 cartons of T-shirts, socks, shorts and other items bearing the logos of popular European soccer clubs originated in China and was bound for an address near Atlanta.
The shipment arrived in Savannah in March and was seized by agents four weeks later.
Steve Sapp, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, told the Savannah Morning News that the high prices of professional sports jerseys make them an appealing target for counterfeiters.
“People are always looking to save a buck,” Sapp said. “If you know this jersey costs $100 and you find it online for $20, chances are pretty good it’s counterfeit, and you’re taking a chance it’ll be seized.”