Claim: Counterfeiting no longer a Customs priority

Claim: Counterfeiting no longer a Customs priority

WASHINGTON - Customs officials are paying less attention to counterfeiting and other forms of intellectual property theft now that U.S. Customs has been reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security, says a counterfeiting expert, but a former Customs official disputes the assertion

Timothy T. Trainer, president of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition in Washington testified before a House Committee on International Relations July 16 about intellectual property theft and its role in financing terrorism.

Customs is the lead government agency in preventing such theft, but Trainer said member organizations and the group's own research his group learned that intellectual property theft is no longer as much of a priority, having been supplanted by border security and anti-terror directives.

Trainer said companies that regularly train Customs officials at several ports of entry, among them Buffalo, Cleveland, Champlain, N.Y., Detroit, Port Huron, Mich., St. Alban's Vt. and San Francisco/Oakland either have not scheduled training sessions or cancelled them outright for a lack of resources.

The International Chamber of Commerce estimated in 1998 that five to seven percent of world trade is counterfeit, a market worth $350 billion.

The emphasis on more cargo screening with X-ray and other non-intrusive equipment that don't rely on physical inspection make it easier for a criminal to smuggle counterfeit goods, Trainer said.

But Bonni Tischler, product vice president for global transportation and supply chain and a former assistant commissioner of Customs.

"Yes, the emphasis is on high-risk cargo, but high risk cargo in itself is subject to search. More things are being [physically] inspected now than in 2002," Tischler said in a telephone interview.