The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Department has seized a shipment of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes that was being smuggled into Los Angeles.
The counterfeit cigarettes are from China and have an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1.1 million. As an attempt to mislead CBP and circumvent U.S. federal laws, smugglers falsely invoiced the shipment as hang tags and hang plugs. Examination of the merchandise revealed a total of 22,170 cartons, equivalent to over 4.4 million individual cigarettes, in violation of the Marlboro Light 100’s and Marlboro Gold Pack trademarks.
Counterfeit cigarettes not only affect trademark owners, but defraud consumers and deprive the government of tax revenue. Consumers think they pay less for a genuine product, when in reality they pay less for a product of substandard quality. Organized crime organizations smuggle counterfeit cigarettes because of the potential for substantial profits. Much of these profits fund other criminal activities, including money laundering and terrorism.
Importers violating intellectual property rights may be subject to civil penalties and criminal prosecution. In 2009, 14,841 seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods, with a total domestic value of $260.7 million, were intercepted in the United States.