In 2011, Customs officers in the European Union seized nearly 115 million items suspected of infringing intellectual property rights, compared to 103 million in 2010. The number of seizures increased by 15% compared to 2010 (1).
It is often quite difficult for Customs authorities to determine the authenticity of a given item. The assistance of the IP rights holder is often a key element in the fight against counterfeit goods. According to the European Commission, this collaboration is the most effective weapon and must be reinforced.
IP rights holders can, in the context of an interception request, seek Customs’ protection. Companies can file interception requests at a national level or also for the whole of the European Union. 1,586 interception requests were filed with the service ‘Direction Générale de la Douane et des Droits Indirects’ (DGDDI) in 2012 (2).
The protection provided is valid for one year and can be renewed by simple request. It is possible to lodge an interception request as a purely preventative measure, or if the petitioner has reasons to believe that their IP rights have been, or are likely to be, violated. The interception request must be made via an application form that will differ according to whether the IP right in question is national (3) or Community-wide (4).
To validate an interception request, the rights holder must fulfill the following two conditions:
- The request must contain a sufficiently accurate description of the protected right or rights so that the Customs authorities are able to select and identify goods that are suspected of being in breach of IP rights.
- This must be accompanied by the relevant documents proving that the petitioner is the title holder of the rights in question.
The rights holder can ask the Customs authorities to monitor the transit of certain goods more closely. With this in mind, the title holder can provide Customs with detailed information which may be decisive in locating counterfeit goods. For example, the rights holder could indicate which shipping company is importing the genuine articles, their country of origin, in which type of container the goods are being transported and with what other merchandise, or how the genuine articles can be distinguished from counterfeit goods.
In cases where the interception request has been previously filed, Customs can hold goods suspected of being counterfeit for a ten-day period (or three days for perishable goods) in order to allow the IP rights holder to file a lawsuit: this is the procedure required for counterfeit seizure.
Where no interception request has been previously filed, Customs can hold goods on an exceptional basis for three days: this is termed “ex officio seizure” and should lead to the filing of an interception request. This being the case, informing Customs of one’s IP rights allows them to fight more effectively against counterfeit goods entering a given territory.
Do you need advice? Dreyfus team and our associates are entirely at your disposal to guide you concerning the protection of your intellectual property rights!
(1) European Commission Press Release, July 24 2012 : http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-823_fr.htm?locale=fr