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US agents seize fake Chinese goods worth $16 million in Texas

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counterfeit goods rise to account for 3.3% of all global trade

Officers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seized Chinese-made counterfeit luxury items estimated to be worth $16 million in the Texan city of Laredo.

Working in collaboration with colleagues from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ICE investigators last Thursday impounded 78,908 suspected fake items, including knockoffs of clothing and electronics products from Adidas, Apple, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Samsung and Sony.

The confiscated items, which were part of a consignment that officials said was the second-largest seizure HSI had made in Laredo, will now be investigated by agencies including US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Mexican Customs and representatives from the trademark industry.

Special agents seized the items after HSI launched a clandestine surveillance operation targeting a public storage facility in Laredo, where a number of individuals were observed carrying boxes out of a rented storage unit to trucks and vans sporting Mexican licence plates.

During the surveillance operation, a large air cargo container was seen approaching the unit, from which counterfeit products were transferred to the waiting trucks.

It was at this time that HSI intervened, confiscating 275 boxes containing 78,908 items of suspected trademark-infringed merchandise.

No arrests have so far been made in relation to the shipment, but ICE said investigations are ongoing.

Commenting on the seizure, Tim Tubbs, Deputy Special Agent In charge of HSI Laredo, said in a statement: “Trafficking counterfeit goods poses a triple threat.

“Counterfeit merchandise wreaks havoc on local economies, threatens the health and safety of the American public, and funds criminal organisations engaged in other illegal activities.”

Organised crime groups that traffic these types of counterfeit goods typically ship them into Mexico, where they are able bribe Mexican regulatory and law enforcement officials so that the merchandise passes without inspection and the payment of duties.

In June 2016, a study published by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Centre revealed that as much of 86% of the world’s fake goods originate from China and Hong Kong.

In its Measuring the Magnitude of Global Counterfeiting report, the US Chamber said: “Despite having become one of the leading players in world trade, China faces significant challenges in the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

“Even though improvements have occurred in recent years, China’s IP environment remains challenging and criminal prosecution against counterfeiters in many industry sectors is inconsistent.

“[W]hen looking at seizure data from major economies and international trade organisations, it is clear that today China is the world leader in producing and exporting counterfeit goods.”

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Europol-led crackdown on counterfeit and piracy websites results in take down of over 30,500 domains

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take down of over 30,500 domains

A global coalition of law enforcement agencies has shut down more than 30,500 domain names linked to the sale and distribution of counterfeit and pirated goods.

Operation In Our Sites (IOS) X, which involved investigators from 18 European Union members states and was supported by Interpol, Europol and the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre, took down websites that sold illicit pharmaceuticals, fake electronic items, pirated films, music and software, and illegally streamed TV content.

As well as removing dodgy websites from the internet, investigators participating in the effort arrested three suspects and confiscated a number of items, including 26,000 luxury products, more than 360 litres of alcoholic, and multiple electronic devices.

The operation also resulted in the identification and freezing of more than €150 000 ($166,308) held in several bank accounts and on internet payment platforms.

In a statement, Europol said: “Europol ’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC³) supported the investigation on the ground by deploying experts with a mobile office.

“Europol officers carried out real-time information exchange and cross-checks of the data gathered during the course of the action against Europol’s databases.

“In addition, IPC3 experts organised several online investigation techniques training courses in intellectual property infringements in 2019 with law enforcement authorities all over Europe.”

The IOS campaign, which first took place in 2014, was launched by Europol to make the internet a safer place for consumers, and to persuade more national governments and private sector firms to take action against counterfeiters who sell goods and services that breach intellectual property rights online.

In last year’s operation, investigators from 26 EU member states teamed up with Europol to take down almost 34,000 domain names that were suspected of links to criminals selling fake and pirated items.

At the end of November, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) revealed in a report that access to pirated content across the 28-nation bloc dropped by 15% between 2017 and 2018, with the sharpest fall seen in music (32%), followed by film (19%) and TV (8%).

Warning that piracy remains a significant problem across the EU, EUIPO Executive Director Christian Archambeau said: “Despite the downturn in pirated consumption shown in our study, there is still much work to do to tackle this problem, and we hope these findings will help decision-makers as they develop policies and solutions.”

In a separate report, the EUIPO said internet protocol television (IPTV) unauthorised streaming generated €941.7 million in 2018, and that these services were used by 13.7 million people across member states that year.

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Most fake items sold in UK bought by consumers who know they are purchasing fakes, OECD study finds

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counterfeit products sold in Britain

The majority of counterfeit products sold in Britain are bought by consumers who know they are purchasing fake items, a new report published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revealed.

More than half of imported counterfeit and pirated goods sold to UK consumers in 2016 were purchased by people who knew they were acquiring bogus products.

According to the study, the percentage of counterfeit items that were bought knowingly in 2016 varied widely by product category, ranging from 33% for food products to 59% for clothing and accessories.

The trade in counterfeit products is costing the UK economy billions of pounds a year and tens of thousands of jobs, the OECD said.

The study found that in 2016, imports of counterfeit and pirated goods cost the UK economy as much as £13.6 billion ($17.6 billion) and in excess of 86,000 jobs.

The monetary loss to the British economy was the equivalent of 3% of genuine imports, up from £9.3 billion in 2013.

In monetary terms, information and communications technology products were the most counterfeited products in 2016, with bogus items in this category worth an estimated £2.5 billion brought into the UK that year.

In relative terms, the OECD found that clothing and accessories and toys and games were the most targeted by criminals who produce and sell counterfeits, with fakes in these product categories accounting for 9.3% and 8%, respectively, of UK imports in 2016.

In global terms, the OECD found that the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods that infringe UK intellectual property rights rose in 2016, increasing from £13.4 billion in 2013 to 16.2 billion, which was the equivalent of 3.3% of total UK manufacturing sales.

Commenting on the contents of the report, OECD Public Governance Director Marcos Bonturi said: “These findings clearly show the need for ‎continued vigilance and for the strengthening of measures to counter illicit trade in the UK and abroad.

“Good governance is an essential element of this equation. Countries need to work together if they want to win the fight against illicit trade and against all other illicit activities linked to it.”

In March of this year, the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office published a report that revealed pirated and fake goods accounted for 3.3% of all global trade in 2016, and that the worldwide value of the counterfeit market amounted to $509 billion that year.

This figure was an increase from $461 billion in 2013, which was 2.5% of all world trade at the time.

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Third of US parents falsely believe fake toys are not sold on major online marketplaces, poll shows

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third of US parents falsely believe fake toys are not sold on major online marketplaces

A poll commissioned by US trade organisation the Toy Association has revealed that a third of American parents wrongly believe that fake toys are not sold on major online marketplaces.

According to a survey of 1,000 US parents conducted by Wakefield Research, 34% of toy-buying parents are unaware that counterfeit toys are not always tested for safety and might be unsafe.

The Toy Association notes that toys produced legitimately and are offered by verified sellers and known brands are tested for compliance with strict US safety standards and tests.

Most worryingly, the poll found that many parents are willing to take a risk by making a purchase from unverified sellers if they think they might stand a chance of bagging a bargain or an item they might not be able to source elsewhere.

Wakefield Research found that the top reasons parents would consider buying toys from unverified sellers include the toys being out of stock everywhere else (32%), or if the toy was exactly what their children wanted (31%).

Twenty-seven percent of parents said they would be enticed if the “unverified” toy was simply cheaper.

Advising parents to be wary of fake products aimed at children, Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Toy Association, said: “Unfortunately, bad actors frequently outside our nation manage to infiltrate online marketplaces, so we continually alert and educate parents on how to protect themselves by purchasing toys only from honest, legitimate manufacturers and sellers.

“The Toy Association and our members remain relentlessly focused year-round on working with government agencies and leading e-commerce platforms to combat the issue of counterfeit products and rogue sellers.”

The Toy Association advises parents to do their research before buying products aimed at children online, particularly when dealing with sellers they are unfamiliar with.

Products made by manufacturers that have no online presence should set alarm bells ringing, as should items in packaging that features multiple spelling and grammar errors, the organisation said.

The association also cautions that if a deal a appears too good to be true, it most likely will be.

Last month, a report from brand protection company Incopro revealed that search engines such as Google are putting consumers’ health and safety at risk by returning links to web pages that offer counterfeit products aimed at children and other fake goods.

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