US, EU tackle counterfeiting with raids

US and European Commission agencies carry out an operation to seize 360,000 counterfeit computer goods.

US and European authorities seized thousands of pieces of counterfeit computer hardware in a major operation in November and December, they announced Friday

About 360,000 items, mostly computer networking hardware and integrated circuits, were seized by the US Customs and Border Protection agency and the European Commission Taxation and Customs Union Directorate General, the agencies said.

The raids were part of "Operation Infrastructure," aimed at fighting piracy and preventing the spread of counterfeit chips.

Counterfeit semiconductors and integrated chips have many potential safety ramifications because they could be used in automobiles, medical equipment and aircraft, said Daryl Hatano, senior vice president of public policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association. Effective anticounterfeiting measures ensure that electronics contain genuine semiconductors and deliver full performance and reliability, Hatano said. Counterfeit chips also bite into sales of hardware companies selling genuine chips.

Companies and consumers need to take steps to avoid becoming counterfeiting victims, he said.

For US Customs to identify counterfeit chips, products need to be registered with US Customs and the US Patent and Trademark Office, Hatano said.

Consumers focused more on price could be fooled into buying products with fake semiconductors, Hatano said. Consumers should also return products that don't work properly so companies can identify counterfeit chips and work with the government and industry to nab counterfeiters.

A common counterfeiting practice is re-marking of chips, in which counterfeiters replace the label with a different brand name and different part number, Hatano said. The chip might work in equipment but may not have been tested for speed, and the part number might not have been checked, which can lead to equipment failure.

The U.S. and EU said last year that they would establish the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to encourage countries to follow intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization and other global trade groups. The agreement focuses on improved international cooperation, best practices and the establishment of a legal framework to tackle counterfeiting and protect IP rights.

More than 130 million counterfeit items were seized in 2006, according to a study released by the European Commission last year.

Neither US Customs nor EC officials responded to messages for additional comment about the raids.

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