Brand owners rush to record IP rights with Customs

India has launched a Customs recordal system for IP rights. Although the relevant legislation was introduced a year ago, Indian Customs appears to have become active only in the past few months.
India’s coastline spreads over 7,000 kilometres. It counts 12 major ports and approximately 180 minor and intermediate ports. The ports handle over 95% of the country’s trade, thereby acting as a major gateway for traders. However, the ports also constitute entry points for counterfeit goods, and brand owners have long been concerned about the lack of border protection in India.
In May 2007 the government introduced the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules 2007. The introduction of these rules represented a step towards compliance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which requires the adoption of border control procedures (Article 51). 
The Customs notification system applies to all goods imported into India which may infringe IP rights (trademarks, patents, designs, copyright and geographical indications).
The recordal system covers 36 ports (12 major and 24 intermediate ports). In order to benefit from the system, IP owners (or their authorized representatives) must:
  • file a single application;
  • pay the official fee; and 
  • provide a general bond without security and an indemnity bond.
Under the system, Customs will notify the rights holder (or its authorized representative) of the seizure of a consignment of goods that are suspected of being counterfeit. Such a consignment may be detained for 10 days. The consignment may be examined by Customs officials in the presence of the rights holder (or its authorized representative) and the alleged infringer. Samples may be taken for testing and analysis in order to determine whether the goods are counterfeit or otherwise infringe any IP rights. Unless the rights holder objects, infringing goods will be destroyed.
Customs seized the first shipment of infringing goods within a month of the introduction of the Customs recordal system. IP owners are now using the system to assist them in their fight against counterfeit and pirated goods. The system is proving particularly useful for rights owners seeking to curb the influx of counterfeit goods from China, Hong Kong and Dubai, among other countries.
Rachna Bakhru, Rouse & Co International, Dubai

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