Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
There is a burgeoning market for counterfeit products in Jamaica and the Customs Department says in the last few months, it has seen a large number of unauthorised products being smuggled into the island.
The department said since the back-to-school period in August, its focus has been on confiscating fake JanSport backpacks, with at least three 40-foot shipping containers of the much-sought-after school bags being seized in an operation.
In yesterday's Gleaner, the JanSport Apparel Corporation issued a statement saying it was "in the process of gathering evidence against those who are unlawfully manufacturing, importing, offering for sale or keeping in their possession or control counterfeit or fake JanSport-branded goods".
The notice said the company would be taking legal action against anyone found with counterfeit JanSport bags.
Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese said the traders of the counterfeit bags have devised ingenious ways to get the inferior products into the country.
MIXED WITH GENUINE GOODS
"What we have determined is that these shipments have been mixed … . When we did our raids, some were counterfeit and some were genuine. So, it appears that this was a direct strategy when they were importing them to bring in both," Reese noted.
He said when the items were seized, the distribution between the original and the imitation bags was almost the same.
According to Reece, more than 90 per cent of the rip-offs are shipped from China and often go through a number of ports before they reach Jamaica for distribution.
The Customs boss said the department has been working with the owners of the JanSport trademark to develop better systems geared at identifying their original products.
He said persons found guilty of selling these bags could face significant losses, as their products will be seized and they may have to face charges under the Trade Marks Act.
Noting that the counterfeit bags fetch anywhere between $400 and $1,500, while the originals are sold for between $3,000 to $4,500, Reese said: "We (Customs Department) have received complaints from legitimate traders, … [who] now have a problem trading at the correct prices in the market."
Meanwhile, school bags are not the only knock-offs flooding the country's ports, as Reese said the agency is inundated on a monthly basis with illegal cigarettes.
"Almost every month, we seize a shipment of cigarettes. We have special illicit cigarette operations now," Reese said.