BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — How often do you think U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Buffalo Field Office sees counterfeit items at the border?
Monthly? Weekly? How about almost daily?
The Buffalo Field Office has 16 ports of entry, covering not only Buffalo, but many borders across the state, most of which can be found near Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence River.
Nearly every day, CBP officers come across items that violate intellectual property rights (IPR), whether they be counterfeits or straight-up fakes.
“Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, images, names and logos used in commerce,” the International Trade Administration says.
CBP says it focuses on priority trade issues (PTI), like those related to intellectual property rights.
“PTIs represent high-risk areas that can cause significant revenue loss, harm the U.S. economy, or threaten the health and safety of the American people,” CBP says.
Items found at the border include everything from sports memorabilia to watches, children’s clothes, instruments, pills and even COVID test kits. Take a look:
Hard to tell the difference between those and the real things, right?
Let’s look at the big picture, A.K.A. U.S. Customs and Border Protection as a whole across the country. Between 2014 and 2017, the annual number of seizures pertaining to intellectual property rights dramatically jumped by roughly 11,000.
That number has dipped since 2018, leveling out in recent years to around 27,000 in 2021.
If they were authentic, the total value of items seized each year would be staggering. The real versions of these faked products typically carry heftier price tags than what scammers would likely sell them for.
Just this month, CBP officers at the Lewiston, New York border seized six counterfeit purses in separate parcels that altogether would have carried an MSRP value of more than $14,000 if they were authentic.
Over most of the past decade, the total MSRP value of IPR seizures by CBP officers across the United States has remained somewhat steady year to year.
(These numbers represent if the products were authentic.)
But in 2021, the number skyrocketed to more than $3.3 billion.
In 2022, this changed; both the number of seizures and MSRP value dropped. CBP says 20,812 shipments with IPR-violating goods were seized, with an MSRP total of more than $2.98 billion if the products were genuine.
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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.