These nationwide and global anti-piracy seizures are just a small sampling of the worldwide efforts by local, state, and federal law enforcement, often collaborating in anti-piracy investigations. While many of these seizures in the past have focused on physical stockpiles of counterfeited CD and DVD recordings, illegal streaming and filesharing technology has radically transformed how law enforcement battles what are now digital piracy concerns. Meanwhile, counterfeit merchandising has exploded in recent years, which has led to stepped-up efforts by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies to stop illegal products from coming into the U.S. from other countries. Local law enforcement also gets involved in cases where illegal products—some of them a threat to public health—are being imported and sold within the U.S.
Today, federal and state anti-piracy efforts tackle digital piracy and the production, transfer and sale of all kinds of counterfeit merchandise, from watches, sneakers, and handbags to counterfeit medicines and vaccines, industrial equipment and beauty products.
Anti-Piracy Seizure Information: July – September 2023
July 12, 2023 – Louisville CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) officials intercepted and inspected two shipments of phone cases, designer rings and watch bands, which the agency’s trade experts found to be counterfeit. The first package contained 2,500 rings with fake logos of Roles, Gucci, Versace and Bvlgari that infringed upon registered trademarks. The products, shipped from Hong Kong, were on their way to Georgia. The other shipment, also from Hong Kong, was on its way to an Orlando, Florida residence. It contained 210 watch bands and 319 phone cases with Louis Vuitton logos and 60 Gucci watch bands—all counterfeits. These were also found to be in violation of the designers’ registered trademarks and were seized as well. If genuine, this merchandise would have had a suggested retail value of $1.76 million.
July 27, 2023 – Officers from the Baltimore division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 13,660 pairs of counterfeit canvas-topped Converse sneakers that had a retail value, if genuine, of more than $314,000. The athletic footwear was in violation of Converse’s midsole design trademark, shipped from China to a Los Angeles County address. The shipment was marked as “shoes,” and officers suspected they were counterfeit. They sent photographs and documentation to their Intellectual Property Enforcement Branch (IPE) which made the final determination. The division confirmed that the sneakers violated Converse’s protected trademark. The shipment was seized but no one, as yet, has been charged with the crime.
July 12, 2023 – Local police seized $11.3 million worth of counterfeit merchandise from a Shrewsbury storage facility. The fake goods were from designer brands like Luis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Prada. According to the Shrewsbury Police Department, officers went to the scene where multiple gunshots were reported and searched the Extra Space Storage property to track down the gunfire. In one of the storage units, they discovered thousands of counterfeit goods neatly displayed on boxes, tables and shelves, as one would see at a retail store. Police found phony shoes, hats, handbags, backpacks, sunglasses, clothing, earbuds, umbrellas and phone cases from luxury brands like Prada, Nike, Chanel, Luis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex and North Face. Additionally, 19 other products valued at almost $45,000 were seized from two nearby vehicles.
July 7, 2023 – At the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials seized counterfeit luxury watches from Hong Kong, on their way to an Oklahoma resident. The five high-end counterfeit Richard Mille watches, if genuine, would have retailed for more than $3 million. But these were confirmed as fake by CBP’s Center of Excellence and Expertise (CEE).
July 20, 2023 – Following a complaint from a brand owner of counterfeit goods that mimicked their products, police conducted a raid on a downtown Kingston store. They discovered a warehouse inside the store with a massive quantity of fake Puma, Crocs, Nike and Tommy Hilfiger items. The Intellectual Property Rights Unit of the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime bureau confirmed that more than $200 million of counterfeit merchandise was seized from the store and that a foreign individual was arrested. This latest bust brings the value of counterfeit products removed from Kingston streets since January to more than $500 million.
July 16, 2023 – The Bureau of Customs (BoC) in the Port of Subic seized counterfeit products in two 40-foot container shipments. The fake merchandise included famous brands like Calvin Klein, Balenciaga, Adidas, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Under Armour, Zara, Reebok, GAP and Nike. This bust was part of continuing efforts by the bureau to stop intellectual property rights infringement. After examining the goods and cross-referencing documentation, customs officials were able to identify the shipments that contained the fake products. A total of 1,269 boxes had counterfeited merchandise. The shipment was marked as “T-shirts” but included various apparel with designs and logos of well-known brands. The estimated retail value, if genuine, is P240M (USD $4.38M).
July 4, 2023 – Police in Manchester raided shipping containers in the city and found a record number of counterfeit products worth an estimated £87m ( USD $110.9M). Included in the record-breaking 580 tons of products (207 shipping containers) were counterfeit drugs, clothes, vapes, tobacco and Nitrous Oxide canisters. Authorities confirmed that this was the largest European counterfeit seizure in 20 years and one of the largest in the world. It took 100 police, brand experts and security personnel two weeks to open the containers and process the phony merchandise. These containers were discovered near the Cheetham Hill area. In 2021, Manchester police found 200 tons of counterfeit goods in a Strangeways storage facility.
July 27, 2023 – At a raid on a counterfeit facility in Cheetham Hill, police arrested a 36-year-old man on suspicion of trademark infringement. Inside the building, investigators found machines used to attach counterfeit designer logos to unbranded products. They also seized large quantities of clothing and labels ready to be put on clothes and handbags, in addition to vapes, machines and cash.
July 29, 2023 – In an effort to shut down illegal IPTV streaming, a court ruling has handed down some of the longest sentences for piracy crimes. Five individuals found to be the leaders of a piracy operation that made more than £7 million from 50,000 subscribers received a combined sentence of 30 years in jail (ranging from 3 years and 11 months to 11 years). The group, under the names Optimal, Shared VPS and Flawless, allowed users to watch Premier League football matches with illegal IPTV. They also streamed television series, films and global channels.