Governor Walker’s upcoming trip to China in April, 2013 is a good opportunity to remember potential issues involved in exporting and in particular, importing, from foreign countries. According to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation over the last decade Wisconsin Companies have exported nearly $1.4 billion in goods to China.
On the reverse side, according to the US Census bureau the US imports more than $425 billion dollars worth of goods from China each year. With that volume of goods coming into the country, its important to remember that if you are a Wisconsin business importing from China, or any foreign country, you will be ultimately responsible for complying with intellectual property and other rules when importing your goods.
US Customs and Border protection (a sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security) is charged with inspecting and seizing goods at the border that potentially violate various intellectual property rights. In 2012, Customs seized more than $1.2 billion worth of goods for Intellectual Property Rights violations. These violations are typically copyright and trademark infringement. These seizures don’t just occur at our borders or seaports, customs officers are station at express consignment facilities located throughout the county. In fact, in 2010, Customs seized over $400,000 of counterfeit merchandise right here in Milwaukee. If items you are importing are seized, Customs may take them and destroy those items without compensation and could even issue a fine against your company.
In the event your goods are seized, there is an opportunity for administrative appeal and even for judicial review, but there are tight time restrictions that must be met. I have gone through the process for Wisconsin businesses after a seizure and it is long and arduous, but it is not without hope; I have had items successfully released after US Custom’s seizure. If your company has had any items seized by US Customs you should contact an attorney right away to find out your options.