The New York Times' Nate Schweber reported on the US government's seizure of over $300M in counterfeit goods in a recent article, mainly counterfeit UGG boots. He also wrote about the tactics pirates take to get fake accessories past US customs and avoid being pin-pointed for trademark infringement. Its quite widely known in the industry that label-less purses are imported into the US, only to be taken to a warehouse and have "Prada" labels sewn on to them. These are the careful attempts of counterfeiters to bring the bags into the US and also to avoid attention and ultimately, trademark infringement allegations.
Schweber addressed another tactic. Once the "UGG" boots at issue cleared customs in New Jersey ports, they were taken to nearby warehouses, where workers removed the dummy tags. The tags on the heels read “XMX,” and they had generic tread on their bottoms. Under the dummy tags were UGG labels and the UGG brand’s signature soles. What appeared to be authentic UGG labels, were, in fact, counterfeit boots. The boots, along with fake Nike, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Gucci accessories, were then shipped to sellers, who may or may not have known that the goods were counterfeit.
The defendants are accused of smuggling counterfeit goods from China into the US by filing fraudulent customs forms using the names of legitimate shipping companies. James A. Dinkins, associate director of Homeland Security Investigations, made a very important point in terms of intellectual property: “These people exploited our borders by stealing legitimate identities of companies, whose names were essentially hijacked."
An interesting aspect of all of this is that the majority of the charges will likely stem from trademark infringement and fraud (in regards to the customs forms) as it is not illegal blatantly copy another's design in the US. As such, if these counterfeiters were to import an exact copy of a purse that bears no labels, it would be perfectly legal. For instance, importing a "Celine" luggage tote, which is a largely logo-less bag, is completely legal, as long as the impostor does not bear any Celine trademarks. The same goes for clothing, as well.