Special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations, working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, on Wednesday seized $6.5 million in counterfeit merchandise in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, the ICE said.
The officers targeted 14 retailers selling goods that they say infringe on the trademarks of Gucci, Michael Kors, Prada, Chanel, Ray Ban, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Oakley, Nike and the National Basketball Association.
First-time offenders accused of violating intellectual property laws were served with a notification of a violation of law, while repeat offenders will be prosecuted by the HSI, the agency said.
This significant haul of counterfeit and pirated goods represents a coordinated effort by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which brings together 19 U.S. federal agencies as well as Interpol, Europol and the governments of Canada and Mexico. The group investigates and intercepts counterfeiting operations and sales and provides training on intellectual copyright theft and fraud.
“Stealing intellectual property is not a victimless crime,” Ricardo Mayoral, special agent in charge of HSI in San Juan, PR, said in a statement. “The bottom line is counterfeit and pirated goods steal revenue from legitimate businesses and shortchange buyers who think they're getting the real deal. Those involved in intellectual property rights violations should take note that we are actively looking for contraband on a daily basis and counterfeit goods will be seized and violators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The bust follows a matter of days after Alibaba Group announced the launch of its IP Joint-Force System, an online platform designed to streamline intellectual property-related communications between brands and the Chinese marketplace giant. Under the new system, participating brands will be assigned a dedicated online portal and Alibaba account manager to exchange information about suspected counterfeit product listings, allowing brands to identify the authenticity of a product and more easily notify Alibaba of the infringing listing.
In May, the Washington, D.C.-based International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition suspended Alibaba's membership after an outcry from global brands and members over its inclusion. Speaking at Alibaba Group's first investor day conference, executive chairman and founder Jack Ma did himself no favors when he said that many knockoffs available on the company’s marketplaces are of better quality than the authentic products they mimic. Ma nevertheless pledged that the retailer would continue to crack down on sales of counterfeit goods across its platform, and later sought to clarify his remarks in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.