Department of Homeland Security Releases FY13 Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Statistics

On Monday, March 24th, 2014 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.)released its FY13 intellectual property rights enforcement statistics, signaling tremendous efforts by the U.S. government to address the growing threat of intellectual property rights violations through counterfeiting and illicit content distribution in the United States and internationally. Counterfeit goods and intellectual property rights (IPR) violations are not a victimless crime. The illegal distribution of online content, counterfeit goods and other forms of IPR violations deny the creators of intellectual property compensation for their work, draining billions of dollars from the legal economy annually.
According to D.H.S., in 2013 the agency reported a seven percent increase in IPR seizures since 2012 and a 38% increase in the value of said seizures in terms of the manufacturers’ suggested retail price (MSRP), totaling $1.74 billion compared to $1.26 billion in 2012. Additionally, according to DHS, “1413 domain names distributing counterfeit merchandise were seized, 35 exclusion order enforcement actions were completed and 20 shipments of circumvention devices were seized.”
The interagency and international efforts led by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center have led to 693 arrests, 411 indictments, and 465 convictions for IPR related crimes in 2013 alone. However despite the tremendous work in fighting IPR crimes, the problem persists and must be combatted zealously in order to stop counterfeit goods from entering the market. If IPR crimes are to be addressed there must be continued pressure placed upon other countries to enforce the integrity of intellectual property rights. While China remains the largest supplier for counterfeit goods seized by DHS in FY13 (totaling $1.1 billion), 73 additional countries have been the source of DHS seizures.
In 2013, handbags and wallets were the number one counterfeit good seized in terms of MSRP, while watches/ jewelry and consumer electronics/parts ranked second and third respectively. Such counterfeit goods do not only hurt producers, but also harm consumers as well. Consumers end up paying for poor quality goods and potentially harmful products such as counterfeit electronics which have been known to damage computers, threatening the public safety due to the potential to corrupt “critical infrastructure systems.” Equally concerning, if not more so is the quantity of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Equaling the fifth largest share of counterfeits seized in terms of MSRP, pharmaceuticals and personal care products account for the fourth most seizures by the government. The large prevalence for counterfeit medication and products directly threatens the health of consumers and integrity of the healthcare system and must be stopped.
While the recent support from DHS is promising, there is still much work to be done. We must work with other countries to safeguard IPR in order to protect not simply businesses, but the safety of consumers internationally. If we are to see any improvement in IPR protection there must be continued pressure by the U.S. government on source economies of counterfeit goods, especially China, Hong Kong, and India (who has now become the thirds largest source economy for counterfeit goods in terms of MSRP).

For the full DHS report click here.