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California Court Pursues Forfeiture of Imported Men’s Briefs for Puma Trademark Infringement

anno-1900-clothes-clothes-line-54611-300x201U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is seeking forfeiture action on 52 cartons of men’s briefs that were in a shipment presented for entry into the U.S. at Long Beach Seaport on April 16, 2015.

Entry documents identified the shipment’s importer as Sunshine Import International Corporation. The shipment came from Xiamen, China.

According to the forfeiture complaint, the shipment was seized by CBP on May 18, 2015, and is currently in the agency’s custody. A warehouse inspection by CBP allegedly revealed that the briefs bore a possible infringement of the “leaping cat” design that is a registered trademark belonging to sporting goods manufacturer Puma.

CBP sent digital images and a sample to an import specialist who determined that the “leaping cat” logo on the briefs were “substantially indistinguishable” from Puma’s protected trademark.

Based on this examination, CBP determined that the manufacturer of the briefs violated a trademark belonging to Puma that is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The usage purportedly constitutes a counterfeit of Puma’s trademark and the CBP is using this as a basis for forfeiture action. It is not yet clear what company produced the allegedly illegal items, nor is it clear whether that company will face any legal repercussions save the seizure of the offending articles of clothing.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal procedure where law enforcement take possession of an individual’s property if that property is suspected of being involved in a crime. Most states don’t require a criminal conviction before property is seized. Since forfeiture cases are a civil matter, the burden of proof is generally lower than it would be for a criminal case.

The proceeds of forfeiture action frequently go to law enforcement. The practice is so widespread that some local police departments have come to depend on the funds obtained from asset forfeiture. This has brought widespread criticism because it incentivizes law enforcement to seize property in a process known as “policing for profit.”

While civil asset forfeiture can occur on goods entering the United States, it also often occurs on a smaller scale, involving individual citizens of the United States and their private property. Due to the aforementioned controversial aspects of civil asset forfeiture, such cases are often disputed, and sometimes the owners of the forfeited items are able to recover their seized property. Civil asset forfeiture laws are in dispute and being changed in various states as well; this is being done in order to protect citizens from losing their property if those citizens have not committed crimes relating to that property.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

If your lawful property has been seized, then you should hire an attorney. Contact us to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of Florida’s most experienced civil forfeiture defense attorneys.

Source: United States of America v. 52 Cartons of Men’s Briefs.pdf

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