Customs given new powers to fight counterfeiting

The Nigerian Customs Service, the government agency responsible for regulating the importation and exportation of goods into and from Nigeria, has been given new powers to prevent the importation of counterfeit goods.

Against the backdrop of cross-border counterfeiting, there has been a growing awareness of the pivotal role that Customs ought to play in combating piracy and counterfeiting. Until recently, Customs was not legally empowered to address the issue of counterfeiting in Nigeria. Its powers were limited to collecting duties and ensuring that prohibited goods (as listed in the Common External Tariff) were not imported into the country. However, 'prohibited goods' did not include counterfeit or pirated products.
This situation worked against the interests of IP rights owners, as they could not work together with Customs in the fight against counterfeiting. Trademark and copyright owners had to enforce their rights through:

  • long and expensive litigation;
  • the Merchandise Mark Act; or
  • administrative actions.
However, the new fiscal policy of the Nigerian government grants certain powers to Customs to prevent the importation of pirated or counterfeit goods. This policy is contained in the Common External Tariff for 2008-2012. 
Of particular interest is Part 1, Schedule 4 of the Common External Tariff, which provides a list of goods prohibited from importation into Nigeria. The third item on the list mentions “all counterfeit/pirated materials or articles, including base or counterfeit coins of any country”. As a consequence, Customs now has the power to prevent the importation of all counterfeit/pirated goods into the country. 

This represents a significant weapon in the fight against counterfeiting in Nigeria, as trademark owners may now rely on the new Common External Tariff to request that Customs prevent the importation of infringing goods.
Sade Laniyan, Jackson Etti & Edu, Lagos 

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