Mike Korpi wanted some trinkets for his children and grandchildren from his trip to China, so he spent $14.40 for eight junky knockoff Rolex...
PORTLAND — Mike Korpi wanted some trinkets for his children and grandchildren from his trip to China, so he spent $14.40 for eight junky knockoff Rolex watches.
Now he may pay a fine that could have bought eight real ones.
Customs agents had no problem with the one on his wrist, but had issues with the other seven they found in his bag, and seized them.
Korpi says he understood the confiscation and thought it was the end of the matter.
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For months the U.S. Department of Homeland Security tried reaching Korpi through letters to his former wife. They tried calling him. Korpi says he thought they were trying to return the watches.
Wrong. They wanted to fine him $55,300 for bringing in counterfeit goods.
“I about hit the floor,” he told The Oregonian newspaper.
“I said, ‘You gotta be joking.’ I figured someone had missed a decimal point.”
Rolex is a protected trademark. He said the fine was based on the value of the suggested retail price of genuine Rolexes.
Korpi, 55, a Forest Grove race car mechanic whose story first appeared on the Willamette Week Web site on Monday, says a lawyer looked into it but Korpi says he can’t afford to hire one to see the case through.
He figures if the government garnishes his wages he will be paying until he is 67.
“I don’t know what is going on here,” said Korpi, who has been to China four times in two or so years to visit his girlfriend, a tattoo artist. “I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept in five days.”
If they are supposed to be guarding the border, he asked, “Why are they bothering me with eight dinky watches?”
Peter Heuser, who runs an intellectual property rights firm in Portland, said he had never heard of such a bite for eight watches and said the fine seemed more fit for someone trafficking such goods.
Still, Heuser said, it appears trademark rights were violated.
Had Rolex itself moved against him, it could have collected up to $100,000 each.
Heuser said the fine might drop once Korpi meets with customs officials.
Korpi said the watches were junk. The crystal fell off one in his bag and the one he wore broke three weeks later. He said he left it at a bar.
“These are cheap junk from a dollar store-type deal. They are so obviously fake,” he said “You couldn’t have gotten five or 10 bucks for them on the street.”