Counterfeiters hit with lengthy jail time

The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida in Miami recently obtained convictions of two defendants, Ji Wu Chen and Meihua Li, for various acts of trademark counterfeiting (Case 05-20948). The defendants operated a stall at a flea market in Miami at which they sold a wide range of merchandise bearing counterfeit trademarks of a number of well-known trademark owners, including Cartier, Coach, Disney, Fendi, Gillette, Glock, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Major League Baseball, Nike Inc, Oakley, Prada, Rolex and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. The defendants stored the merchandise bearing counterfeit trademarks at their home and warehouse.

After undercover agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the local Miami police purchased counterfeit products from the defendants' flea market stall, a search warrant and an arrest warrant were executed pursuant to which the defendants were arrested and their home, warehouse and stall were searched. During the search, agents recovered counterfeit electrical cords, batteries, handbags, wallets, luggage, clothing, watches, sunglasses, key holders and umbrellas, which filled several tractor trailers.

The defendants were indicted on six counts of trafficking and attempting to traffic in counterfeit goods, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, and concealing and importing counterfeit goods. The defendants were convicted after a two-week trial. Chen was sentenced to 97 months in prison and Li was sentenced to 87 months.

The arrest and conviction in this case is significant because of the quantity of counterfeit merchandise involved. It is also one of the relatively few instances in which individuals convicted of trademark counterfeiting have been sentenced to significant time in jail for this type of crime.

Susan Progoff, Fish & Neave Intellectual Property Group of Ropes & Gray, New York

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