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Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for securing the borders of the United States while facilitating lawful international trade and travel. CBP employs various technologies to enforce hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations at the border, including immigration and narcotics enforcement laws. To meet these vast mission requirements CBP relies on a variety of law enforcement tools and techniques for law enforcement and border security.

CBP is also the primary federal agency authorized to seize goods, including IP-infringing goods, upon their arrival in the United States. CBP is also responsible for preventing the entry of goods into the United States that are subject to exclusion orders and assesses penalties against IP infringers when warranted.[1]

When CBP was created, it represented a merger of components from three federal agencies — the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

CBP’s primary mission is to protect the homeland. CBP is also responsible for carrying out its legacy Customs functions, including trade enforcement. CBP has identified six Priority Trade Issues, one of which is IP enforcement.[2] Within its IP enforcement efforts, CBP gives priority to large value seizures[3] and violations that affect public health and safety or economic security or that have ties to terrorist activity.

Office of International Trade[]

CBP's Office of International Trade develops IP enforcement policies and plans, develops national instructions for targeting shipments suspected of carrying IP-infringing goods, writes guidance for assessing penalties and enforcing exclusion orders, and maintains data on IP-related seizures.[4]

Office of Field Operations[]

The Office of Field Operations oversees implementation of these policies and procedures at 325 U.S. ports of entry. While much of CBP's IP enforcement activity is carried out by the ports, headquarters staff play an integral role in supporting those efforts, including providing policy and guidance on enforcement priorities and developing systems and technologies to enhance enforcement.

IP Enforcement Activities[]

Various types of CBP staff play a role in IP enforcement.[5] The only staff that are dedicated exclusively to IP enforcement are international trade specialists, attorneys, and paralegals assigned to the Office of International Trade, and their numbers have fluctuated over time. International Trade Specialists are responsible for performing nationwide targeting for all CBP ports of incoming shipments suspected of carrying IP-infringing goods and for analyzing IP seizure data.


  1. CBP is required to exclude goods that are subject to an "exclusion order" issued by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC). CBP takes two basic steps to enforce these orders: (1) CBP posts written guidance, called Trade Alerts, to its intranet to inform ports about new orders, and (2) it creates electronic targeting instructions that alert ports about incoming shipments that need to be examined for potential infringing goods related to the order. When its examinations identify goods that should be excluded, CBP does not allow the goods to enter the country and issues a notice of exclusion to the importer.
  2. As of fiscal year 2006, CBP’s Priority Trade Issues included agriculture, antidumping and countervailing duties, intellectual property rights, penalties, revenue, and textiles and wearing apparel.
  3. After CBP seizes the counterfeit goods, it may also assess penalties that result in monetary fines imposed against the violator.
  4. Within the Office of International Trade, CBP auditors perform targeted audits on selected companies to assess their internal controls for preventing the importation of IP-infringing goods.
  5. CBP officers are responsible for examining shipments with suspected counterfeit goods, but one of their primary focus is screening cargo for weapons of mass destruction. Import specialists are responsible for applying duties to imports and develop expertise in certain goods, including a determination of whether imports are counterfeit. Fines, Penalties, and Forfeiture officers are responsible for assessing penalties against importers that violate U.S. trade laws, as well as those that traffic in counterfeit goods.