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Counterfeit Goods: Life After Seizure

By Connie Gibilaro

On November 15, 2011, Belal Amin Alsaidi, a 30 year old Virginia store owner, pleaded guilty to trafficking counterfeit goods. Alsaidi admitted that he sold counterfeit shoes and apparel at two of his stores from May 2007 through March 2009.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/November/11-crm-1492.html), Alsaidi admitted that he purchased over 1,400 packages of counterfeit merchandise from an individual in New York. The merchandise included knockoff apparel from brands including Nike, NFL, Lacoste, True Religion, and Coogi. Alsaidi faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine. The punishment illustrates law enforcement's attempt to deter potential counterfeiters from committing this crime.

So, what will happen to all of these seized items?

Alsaidi's indictment seeks to seize the counterfeit items and the profits from any sales. Government officials could burn the knockoff Nike apparel according to the 2010 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/intellectualproperty/intellectualproperty_strategic_plan.pdf), which states that infringing goods can be destroyed under the supervision of the Customs Border and Protection (CBP). However, the 2011 U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Plan (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ipec_anniversary_report.pdf) did not mention that counterfeit goods can be destroyed after they have been seized. In fact, the word "destroy" does not appear in the entire 2011 plan. This might show the government's intent to preserve counterfeit goods.

The United States wouldn't be the first country to put infringing merchandise to good use. The Musée de la Contrafaçon (http://www.placesinfrance.com/counterfeit_museum_paris.html), or Counterfeit Museum, is a museum in Paris, France that exhibits more than 350 items and where each counterfeit is paired with its authentic original. The Union des Fabricants, an organization of manufacturers, established the museum in 1951 to portray the detrimental effects of counterfeiting on industries and world economies. However since no such museum exists in the United States, it is unlikely that Alsaidi's counterfeit apparel will be displayed for the American public anytime soon.

A central purpose of the Musée de la Contrafaçon has been to educate people on the differences between authentic goods and their infringing counterparts. It is unclear whether the United States IP Task Force (http://www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce/)supports similiar goals. According to the Department of Justice (http://www.justice.gov/), the mission of the IP Task Force is to "build on previous efforts in the Department to target intellectual property crimes and to address technological and legal landscape in this area of law enforcement."

The IP Task Force seems to be more concerned with enforcing intellectual property rights than informing the public on how to identify fake goods. Regardless, Alsaid's case portrays how the Task Force plays an integral role in the battle against counterfeiting.

Top 10 Seized Counterfeit Goods (Crime Inc.: Counterfeit Goods - CNBC http://www.cnbc.com/id/37824347):

1. Footwear

2. Consumer Electronics

3. Apparel

4. Handbags/Wallets/Backpacks

5. Media

6. Computers/Hardware

7. Cigarettes

8. Watches/Parts

9. Jewelry

10. Pharmaceuticals

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 10, 2011 12:26 PM.

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