$1 Million in Counterfeit Guitars Seized by U.S. Customs

by Jonathan Jaggers on May 5, 2014

New Jersey, home state of rockers like Bon Jovi, Skid Row, The Misfits, and Bruce Springsteen, has probably seen its fair share of smashed guitars. But not even in the wildest stage show imaginable have the inhabitants of the Garden State seen 185 guitars with a street value of $1 million seized and destroyed in one fell swoop. But that’s exactly what happened recently at the hands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Jersey City. The officers, working at a bulk mail facility, weren’t imitating the wild stage antics of The Who or Nirvana, instead they were enforcing the trademark rights of iconic guitar companies such as Gibson, Paul Reed Smith, and Martin.

It seems that shoddy packaging and suspicious provenance tipped off the customs officers, who on further inspection found the guitars to be counterfeits of the authentic items, which typically retail at prices ranging from $2,000 all the way up to $54,000.

Under U.S. federal law, it’s unlawful to import any merchandise of foreign manufacture into the United States if it bears a trademark owned by a citizen of, or by a corporation created or organized within the United States that is registered with the USPTO and filed with CBP, unless written consent for the importation is produced from the trademark owner at the time of importation. Gibson, maker of the iconic Les Paul guitar, has been an ongoing target of counterfeiters for years, as the numerous websites created about how to spot a fake Les Paul attest.  File this one away as yet another advantage to registering your trademark and keeping the registration in good standing.

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