The recent seizure of counterfeit sneakers at Washington Dulles International Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers shines a light on both the scope of the counterfeiting problem in the United States and what brands can do to put the full court press on manufacturers and merchants seeking to profit from misappropriated intellectual property.
The 400 pairs of sneakers were shipped from China as air cargo and were discovered during routine inspections by CBP officers. Working closely with the brand owner, officers from the agency's Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising Centers for Excellence and Expertise were able to verify that the shoes were counterfeits and ultimately size them.
How Big Is the Problem?
In the press release announcing the seizure, the agency stated that, during fiscal year 2016 alone, it seized products with a total street value – if genuine – of roughly $1.4 billion during almost 32,000 seizures. That works out to seizing $3.8 million each day – and those are just the infringing goods CBP agents intercepted.
While it may have once been the case that counterfeiters mainly targeted luxury goods, those days are long gone. In addition to high-end products, counterfeiters frequently rip off more commonplace products, including direct response products and, in at least one case in New Jersey, ketchup.
During 2015, the top 10 categories of seized goods were apparel and accessories, consumer electronics, footwear, watches and jewelry, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, handbags and wallets, optical media, computers and peripherals, product labels and tags, and toys.
Bottom line: if you own a brand, you likely have a counterfeiting problem.