Customs enforcement of intellectual property rights: what is changing?

The European Parliament and Council of the European Union have adopted a regulation, to come into force from 1 January 2014, which amends the existing regime for the border detention of goods that infringe intellectual property rights. This article summarises the existing regime and identifies the principal changes to be introduced by the new regulation.

The Counterfeit Goods Regulation governs the procedures for customs action against goods suspected of infringing certain intellectual property rights. The regulation applies to infringing goods being imported or exported or in transit across the external borders of the European Economic Association (EEA). Once goods have been entered for free circulation with the EEA, it is not possible to ask customs to detain them as they enter a member state, including the UK, from another EEA country. In other words, the system is only relevant when goods first enter the EEA.

The regulation does not allow customs to take action in respect of: goods that carry a trademark with the permission of the trademark owner; parallel imports (where goods are manufactured with the right holder’s consent but are marketed for the first time in the EEA without the right holder’s consent); goods made by licensees in breach of the terms of their licence; or small quantities of non-commercial goods in an individual’s baggage…

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