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US Customs warns consumers against buying fake Valentine’s Day gifts

With Valentine’s Day approaching, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) advised Puerto Rico consumers about the real dangers of purchasing counterfeit gifts, ranging from watches to purses.

“Counterfeit and pirated products threaten our economic security by hurting legitimate businesses who invest significantly in resources to protect their brands, stated Efrain Rivas, assistant director for Field Operations-Trade for the San Juan Field Office. “Furthermore, these products often pose serious health and safety hazards to the people who buy and use them.”

In Fiscal 2022, the CBP San Juan Field Office seized 1,370 shipments containing goods that violate intellectual property rights with a retail value of $36.5 million.

It is illegal to purchase counterfeit goods. Bringing them into the United States may result in civil or criminal penalties and purchasing counterfeit goods often supports criminal activities, such as forced labor, human trafficking, and money laundering, the agency noted.

A lot of typical Valentine’s gift items are often the most counterfeited products. The top items seized by the San Juan Field Office are footwear, handbags and wallets, wearing apparel, jewelry, and watches.

During a news conference in San Juan, Dora Peñagarícano, one of the island’s foremost trademark attorneys and partner of the McConnell Valdes law firm, explained the penalties that counterfeiters face for violating copyrighted work.

“Federal law establishes as a crime the violation of copyright and establishes penalties between $750 and $150,000 per violation and imprisonment between 1 and 10 years depending on the offense,” she said.

“When a copyrighted work is copied, the author has the right to request that the infringer cease the infringement and may file a lawsuit in federal court seeking the remedies provided by law,” Peñagarícano said.

The attorney has handled several well-known cases representing brands whose work has been pirated over the years. One case was the one filed by Pop Artist Romero Britto in 2011, in which he sued nearly 200 local wholesalers and retailers for copyright and trademark infringement, seeking millions in damages, as News is my Business reported.

“Because of the hundreds of thousands of pirated Britto products, the brand was killed in Puerto Rico, the owner had to close his stores in Puerto Rico, employees lost their jobs, rents were lost, and the artist Romero Britto stopped selling his products here, causing him huge losses,” she said.

Stopping the flow of counterfeit products is a priority trade issue for CBP. To combat the illicit trade of fraudulent goods, CBP works with government partners to target and seize fake and pirated goods and audit suspect importers, it stated.

CBP also collaborates with the private sector through programs such as e-Recordation and the Donation Acceptance Program to protect businesses and their branded products.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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