02/10/2012 08:31 am ET

HBO, U.S. Clamp Down On 'Sex In the City' Counterfeit Perfumes

The ladies of "Sex and the City" are still cool enough for China's massive counterfeit market.

Counterfeit perfume seizures by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection surged in the United States last year, jumping 471 percent to a total value of $9.4 million. And of all perfumes seized, the one most often found was called "Sex in the City," a counterfeit variation on the HBO trademark.

The surge in fake fragrance raids was the result of new partnerships between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and American companies like HBO trying to protect their trademarks, the agency said in a report.

"The collaborative effort that we've had with Customs have been incredibly effective and we've been happy with the results," said HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson of the seizures.

U.S. fragrance companies have turned to law enforcement for help in battling counterfeits after nearly a decade of weak sales, which dropped 20 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to Euromonitor International, a market research group. While the recession is partially responsible, the groups says, top-level brands may no longer hold the same weight over imitations that they once did.

"Fragrances have lost their mystique and become less 'special' and commoditised," Euromonitor wrote in a May 2011 report. "With over a hundred new fragrance launches a year, the glut of fragrances in the marketplace has also created consumer confusion."

Or perhaps Americans are simply no longer willing to pay $100 for designer fragrances when cheap versions abound. The "Sex in the City" fake, for example, is sold all over the Internet for less than $10. Versions like Lust, Kiss, Love and Dream are currently available on, and many other beauty sites.

Three of the four countries most often responsible for counterfeit perfumes seized in 2011 are located in Asia -- China, India and Hong Kong -- but the perfumes also often originated from Germany, according to Customs seizure data.

Most fans of the fragrance likely don't know that the "Sex in the City" perfume is a fake at all, especially since the HBO-approved scent was only just released in Europe last November.

If HBO ever decides to release the product globally, it will likely face stiff competition from counterfeits that have existed since at least 2008, when a Los Angeles-based importer unsuccessfully applied with the U.S. Patent Office for a trademark on the "Sex in the City" name.

HBO declined to comment on whether the company has plans to bring its new fragrance to the U.S.