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Customs Disputes

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) has the authority to exclude from entry, detain, and/or seize merchandise it deems counterfeit.  Irwin IP has unparalleled experience both assisting clients with importation disputes with Customs and in helping to leverage Customs’ resources to help clients protect their intellectual property and prevent their market position from being eroded by illegal imports.  Irwin IP’s knowledge of both in substantive intellectual property law and Customs’ procedural law gives our clients a huge advantage when dealing with these issues. 

On the enforcement side, we identify infringers and educate Customs regarding our clients’ intellectual property and known counterfeiters so that infringing products are stopped at the U.S. border.  For wrongful detentions and seizures, we work with clients through the entire ordeal of proving to the government that their goods are legitimate, be it through administrative petitions, informal meetings with Customs officers, or court proceedings to contest forfeitures or exclusions brought by or against the Government.  For example, Irwin IP was:

  • Lead counsel for a Fortune 500 company combatting the unlawful seizure of its goods on the alleged basis that the company’s goods, which it had been importing for decades, were counterfeit; successfully moved for rapid filing of forfeiture actions after Customs took the position that it could delay resolution of the merits for five years while continuing to seize the company’s goods, resulting in a mandatory injunction forcing the Government to expeditiously bring forfeiture actions;
  • Trial counsel for an importer in an evidentiary hearing at the Court of International Trade securing a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction precluding enforcement by Customs of an import bonding requirement that would have bankrupted the importer in a matter of days; and
  • Lead counsel for a Fortune 500 company in successfully opposing a motion by a trademark owner to intervene as a party in a government-initiated asset forfeiture action, including successfully opposing the resulting appeal at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Whether you are an importer whose goods have been unlawfully detained and seized, or a brand owner who seeks the assistance of Customs to combat counterfeits or gray market importers, we can help.

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Representative matters of Irwin IP, or its lawyers, include:

U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc. v. United States.  Trial counsel for U.S. Auto in litigation asserting violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.  Successfully secured a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Customs after a multi-witness evidentiary hearing, which precluded Customs from enforcing an import bonding requirement and required Customs to expeditiously process all of the U.S. Auto merchandise that had been improperly detained.

LKQ Corporation v. United States.  Lead counsel for LKQ Corporation in litigation securing a grant of a motion and compelling rapid filing to force the Government to expeditiously bring judicial forfeiture actions against the property and to allow LKQ to vindicate its position that its good were authorized under the law, and not counterfeit, after the Government took the position that it could delay resolution of the merits for five years while continuing to seize LKQ’s merchandise.  Further secured order compelling Government to consolidate new forfeiture actions in a previously brought action as opposed to bringing new actions. The case settled shortly thereafter.

United States v. 1,550 Automotive Grilles.  Lead Counsel for LKQ Corporation in litigation defending seized goods from allegations of counterfeiting brought by the United States.  Successfully defended an attempt by the trademark owner to intervene in the litigation against LKQ.  Further briefed and won the appeal filed by the trademark owner at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Successfully opposed a motion to stay brought by the Government.  The case settled shortly thereafter.