Today, on Intellectual Property Day, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took the opportunity to remind the public of the gravity of the threat of IP theft and its negative impact on the American economy.
ICE runs the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), a task-force agency founded in 2000 to coordinate America’s response to intellectual property theft and its enforcement of international trade laws.
The IPR Center supports ICE agents conducting investigations to identify, disrupt and dismantle entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of illicit counterfeit products. The center brings together 23 partner agencies, consisting of 19 key federal agencies, Interpol, Europol and the governments of Canada and Mexico.
“Intellectual property enforcement is a team effort between US government agencies, international customs authorities and members of industry,” said IPR Center Director Bruce Foucart. “The IPR Center is committed to providing training and outreach to domestic and international agencies, education the public on the dangers of counterfeit goods and supporting field investigations by affording agents with all possible resources.”
The announcement follows the release in early April of an annual report from US Customsand Border Protection (CBP) and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) revealing that the total number of products seized containing IPR infringements increased nearly 25 percent in fiscal year 2015. The collaboration netted 28,865 seizures of shipments, an increase from 23,140 in fiscal year 2014.
According to the report, fiscal year 2015 saw a record number of seizures worth an estimated $1.35 billion. There were 538 arrests, with 339 indictments, and 357 convictions all related to intellectual property rights violations during the same year.
Last fall the agency coordinated with police in China to shut down a counterfeit airbag distribution network that was selling illegal goods in the United States. Furthermore, as Homeland Security Today reported in February, conducted raids that were part of Operation Team Player, an ongoing effort developed by the IPR Center to crack down on fake sports merchandise.
HSI special agents teamed up with local law enforcement and CBP to track down street vendors, flea markets and retail outlets selling counterfeit goods. Fake jerseys, hats, and cell-phone accessories are just a few examples of the types of items seized. The agents successfully rounded up nearly 450,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $39 million.
“Counterfeit goods present health and safety hazards, threaten the US economy and fund organizations involved in violent crime,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “ICE is committed to working with CBP and our law enforcement partners to protect American jobs and people by stemming the illicit flow of these products into our country and our communities.”
In fiscal year 2016, CBP and HSI plan to continue to protect businesses and consumers through their aggressive IPR border enforcement program.