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  4. Norfolk, VA CBP Officers Unmask Fake Superheroes Breaking U.S. Law

Norfolk, VA CBP Officers Unmask Fake Superheroes Breaking U.S. Law

Release Date

NORFOLK, Va. – Not many people can stop Superman, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Norfolk, Va., did just that after realizing that the man of steel and several of his superhero peers were impostors.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly $300,000 in counterfeit water bottles, coffee mugs and squeeze balls on August 29, 2022, that were adorned with unauthorized likenesses of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Captain America.
The unauthorized use of superhero artwork violated trademark protections.

Those impostors, counterfeit likenesses of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Captain America, graced the face of 34,363 water bottles, coffee mugs and squeeze balls. CBP officers seized them for violating trademark protection laws. The shipment was appraised at $297,588 MSRP, had they been authentic.

CBP officers initially inspected one container on August 3 and a second container on August 5. The shipment consisted of a combined 436 boxes that were destined to an address in Cook County, Illinois, north of Chicago.

CBP officers suspected the superhero likenesses to be counterfeit and submitted photos and documentation to CBP import specialists at the agency’s Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising Centers of Excellence and Expertise, for a validity determination and appraisal.

On August 24, CBP’s trade experts confirmed that the superhero markings violated trademark protection laws.

CBP officers seized the shipment for destruction.

No one has been criminally charged. An investigation continues.

“Unscrupulous counterfeiters will replicate all manner of popular consumer goods, even forcing our favorite superheroes to break the law, but Customs and Border Protection officers remain on point with enforcing trademark protections,” said Mark Laria, CBP’s Area Port Director for the Area Port of Norfolk-Newport News. “CBP strongly encourages consumers to protect their families by purchasing authentic goods from reputable vendors.”

CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) enforcement program. The international trade in counterfeit consumer goods is illegal. It steals revenues from trademark holders, steals tax revenues from the government, funds transnational criminal organizations, and the unregulated products potentially threaten the health and safety of American consumers. Counterfeit consumer goods may also be sourced or manufactured in facilities that employ forced labor.

During fiscal year 2021, CBP officers and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents seized over 27,000 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights. The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was $3.3 billion, or an average of about $9 million every day.

Additionally, HSI special agents arrested 388 individuals in 2021, obtained 155 indictments, and received 100 convictions related to intellectual property crimes. To learn more at HSI’s role in combatting counterfeiting, visit the National IPR Coordination Center.

Media can mine additional enforcement details by viewing CBP’s IPR webpage or by viewing previous years’ annual counterfeit goods seizure reports.

CBP's border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers and agriculture specialists from the Office of Field Operations. CBP screens international travelers and cargo and searches for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, invasive weeds and pests, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality. Learn what CBP accomplished during "A Typical Day" in 2021. Learn more about CBP at www.CBP.gov.

Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos, and CBP’s Office of Field Operations on Instagram at @cbpfieldops.

  • Last Modified: August 31, 2022