6 September 2012

Fighting counterfeits through Customs registration of IP rights

Counterfeiting represents an ever increasing percentage of world trade and is likely to continue being a major problem facing IP rights owners in the coming years. Education of the general public that counterfeiting is not victimless and causes significant damage will still be offset by consumer demand for 'branded' (counterfeit) products.

In some countries it is possible to record trade marks and other IP rights with the Customs Authorities. This can be an effective step to catch counterfeits. It is also inexpensive and the costs involved can contribute towards financing increased IP training of border personnel. 

Registering with Customs can be useful in developed economies such as the European Union and United States, in particular, to help prevent the importation of counterfeit products. If you are only in possession of a national right in an EU member state then your Customs recordal application can be limited to a 'National Intellectual Property Rights Application' as opposed to a 'Community Intellectual Property Rights Application'.

China represents a manufacturing hub for counterfeit products and usefully the Chinese Customs authorities examine not just imports but exports too. A recordal of an IP right at Customs will enable them to detain a potentially infringing shipment coming into the country but also such a shipment leaving China.

It is also possible to register IP rights in other key jurisdictions such as IndiaMexico (since January 2012), Taiwan and Turkey and many more. I have been advised that Brazil is looking to introduce similar provisions.

There are a couple of quirks to watch out for if you are looking to register your trade marks/IP rights with Customs authorities globally (where it is possible). Jordan is slightly unaligned with their trade mark regime as customs registration must be made with the central Jordanian authorities but also separately with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) to cover the whole country. Aqaba is Jordan's only seaport.

When it comes to the United Arab Emirates, the Customs authorities are not managed federally (unlike the Trade Marks Office) but remain under the responsibility of the seven emirates. Of these seven, DubaiRas al-Khaimah and Sharjah have implemented a registration of IP rights service. Sharjah is often regarded as an extension of Dubai these days. Ras al-Khaimah (or RAK for short) is more remote but the UAE is not a big country.

So you may now look to register your company's or your client's trade marks and IP rights with the local Customs authorities from the United States to Albania (where there is also a recordal facility). Some countries do not provide for the possibility to record trade marks or other IP rights with their Customs authorities. However, it can be possible to make informal requests to the Customs authorities and these can result in your successful notification when infringing products enter the country.

This is just a snapshot of the possibilities but if you have any more specific requests please do not hesitate to get in touch, or liaise with your usual agents.