Border patrol agents in International Falls, Minn., seized a shipment of counterfeit heaters that could have commanded more than $260,000 had they made it to market.

Agents on Friday found 780 of the fake infrared zone heaters inside a rail car bound for the nearby northern Minnesota town of Ranier, according to a statement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The heaters, which originated in China, violated intellectual property rights regulations, officials said.

"CBP is focused on identifying and intercepting counterfeit merchandise and products," said Anthony Jackson, director of the International Falls Port. "The enforcement of trade laws at U.S. ports of entry remains a high priority for us."

Customs officials say stopping illicit goods from entering the United States is important because fake merchandise can damage the U.S. economy and threaten people's health and safety.

For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2019, CBP seized 27,599 shipments containing illicit goods that violated intellectual property rights. The goods carried an estimated value of $1.5 billion. Watches, jewelry and computer equipment were the most common items seized.

During calendar year 2019, CBP officers in International Falls seized 22 shipments with products that violated intellectual property rights. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for those shipments totaled over $6 million, said spokeswoman Kristi Lakefield.

Numbers for fiscal year 2020 were not yet available.

Tim Harlow