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  4. CBP Charleston Seizes More than $12 Million in Counterfeit Water Bottles

CBP Charleston Seizes More than $12 Million in Counterfeit Water Bottles

Release Date

UPDATE: A federal judge determined that the shipments of bottles should be released. CBP officers work across the country to protect the American economy by ensuring that trademarked designs are not being used illegally. Suspected infringements on intellectual property rights result in those shipments being held for further inspection, and some are released after completion of administrative or judicial processes, as was the case with these shipments.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations, at Charleston seaport seized counterfeit water bottles in five separate incidents over the summer. The merchandise arrived into the port from China and each shipment was destined for a California based drink ware distributor.

Analysis of the shipment details suggested that the cargo warranted further scrutiny. In each case, the importer of the merchandise was unable to provide requested paperwork demonstrating that the manufacturer of the goods was authorized to use a unique bottle shape which is a style patented and trademarked by the S’Well Bottle Company.

Examination and appraisal of the shipments revealed 345,597 individual plastic and stainless steel bottles manufactured in a style that mimicked the unique shapes and features trademarked by S’Well Bottle Company. Representatives from S’Well confirmed their trademarked design was being infringed, from use of the same cap to the fluting on the bottom of the bottle and everything in between. If sold without S’Well’s permission, this constitutes counterfeiting and therefore makes the shipments subject to seizure.

The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods, had they been genuine was determined to be $12,341,820.

“The officers that worked these seizures did a tremendous job,” said Robert Fencel Charleston Area Port Director. “It required thorough attention to detail and research to discover this trademark infringement. Their work demonstrates how committed CBP is to ensuring the designers and manufacturers of unique products are protected from those who would try to steal the profits from their hard work and ingenuity.”

In addition to denying trademark holders profit from their ideas, counterfeit products have been found to be manufactured using substandard or tainted materials under uncontrolled, unsanitary conditions, using labor practices that violate international standards.

If you have information about counterfeit merchandise being illegally imported into the U.S., CBP encourages you to submit an E-Allegation. The E-Allegation provides a means for the public to anonymously report to CBP any suspected violations of trade laws or regulations related to the importation of goods into the U.S.CBP’s Office of Field Operations is the primary organization within Homeland Security tasked with an anti-terrorism mission at our nation’s ports. CBP officers screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the U.S. while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. CBP conducts inspection operations and intercepts currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture products, and other illicit items at U.S. ports of entry nationwide. View CBP Snapshot to learn some of what CBP achieves “On a Typical Day.”

Last Modified: February 3, 2021