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 U.S. Customs 
 Recordation Benefits 

Only trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office can be recorded with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
1. Customs will monitor and seize merchandise bearing counterfeit marks and unregistered trademarks.
2. Customs has the authority to issue monetary fines against anyone who attempts to introduce counterfeit goods into the U.S.
3. Customs has the authority to request that the U.S. Attorney's Office criminally prosecute counterfeiters.
4. Customs can raid counterfeit production facilities internationally.

Federal registration allows the owner to enforce its trademark rights in more than the federal courts. Recording a registered trademark with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol can reduce losses due to infringement and counterfeiting. The intellectual property protection that Customs provides to companies is limited to registered trademarks and copyrights. Trademarks and copyrights can receive some protection from U.S. Customs without formal recordation with the agency. Increased protection is given to companies who record their intellectual property with U.S. Customs, which comes at a minimal cost. In order to be recorded with Customs, trademarks must be registered with the USPTO and copyrights must be recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office.

When registered with U.S. Customs, Customs will contact the trademark or copyright owner or our firm as your Attorney to provide them with information regarding a seizure, description of the merchandise, the quantity, the name and address of the manufacturer, and the name and address of the importer. Customs may provide the trademark/copyright owner with a sample of the suspected infringing merchandise in order to pursue a private civil remedy for infringement. When Intellectual Property is recorded with Customs, it allows them to monitor imports for potential infringing products utilizing Customs' internal automated systems. Customs can prevent the importation of infringing goods, seize counterfeit goods, impose fines after infringement determination and detain imported goods bearing similar trademarks.

Customs (United States Customs Service and Border Protection Department) is empowered to detain, seize and forfeit counterfeit, pirated and/or infringing merchandise. Offending importers can face civil fines and have potential infringing goods detained by Customs. Customs relies on the "reasonable suspicion" test for trademarked goods. Customs can and will detain goods that have a reasonable suspicion of infringing a given trademark or copyright.

U.S. Customs may make unannounced visits to companies and ask company officials for access to internal records, inventory and personnel in order to search for possible violations.

If U.S. Customs finds evidence of Intellectual Property Rights violations, it can seize merchandise thought to be counterfeit and the company could have to forfeit the merchandise. The International Trade Commission (ITC) has the responsibility for conducting investigations under 19 U.S.C. § 1337 for the infringement of intellectual property. Under section 1337, a general or limited exclusion order can be placed on the infringing party. Customs can assess civil damages for counterfeit products amounting to the value of the merchandise for the first seizure and twice the value of the merchandise for second and subsequent seizures. Recently introduced legislation could increase damages to $2 million for each infringing product.

In 2004, imported goods from China accounted for 63% of the total domestic value of Intellectual Property Rights.


 Ezra Sutton, Esq., Plaza 9, 900 Route 9, Suite 201, Woodbridge, NJ 07095 
Copyright © 2004 Ezra Sutton, Esq. All rights reserved.