Dubai Customs releases report on achievements for 2008

United Arab Emirates
Dubai Customs has released information on its efforts during 2008.
In order to assist in its battle against counterfeit products, in June 2005 Dubai Customs created a dedicated IP rights section. Since then, the section has introduced formal customs recordals for trademarks (in 2006), as well as other measures and initiatives, in order to meet its objectives and obligations of protecting consumers and brand owners under the laws of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and international treaties (eg, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. In early 2009, Dubai Customs issued a brochure which contained an outline of its work since the creation of the IP rights section.
Currently, the IP rights section of Dubai Customs is composed of more than 10 staff who supervise the 14 customs offices of the Emirate of Dubai (goods arriving by land, sea and air). The IP rights team also liaises with other sections within Dubai Customs, such as the intelligence and detention units, as well as other authorities in Dubai and the UAE.
The report issued by Dubai Customs shows that in 2006, the IP rights section seized over 3 million counterfeit goods. By 2008, this figure had increased dramatically to more than 21.5 million. This staggering increase results from the measures implemented by both Dubai Customs and brand owners in the intervening period. In the same period, the number of complaints filed with Dubai Customs following notification to brand owners increased from seven in 2006 to 72 in 2007, and 64 in 2008 (up to September 2008).
The number of customs recordal applications filed by brand owners has also increased significantly during this period. To date, more than 450 trademarks have been recorded with the IP rights section. These recordals are centralized in a database, which is accessible by all customs offices. As well as providing a list of the brands registered with Customs, the database also contains information provided by brand owners in order to help Customs identify suspected counterfeit goods and actively monitor the market to detect such products.
In order to increase awareness among its officers, Dubai Customs organizes at least two training sessions a year, during which brand owners can deliver brand-specific training to customs officials in order to help them identify counterfeits. Dubai Customs also invites customs officials from elsewhere in the UAE and the wider Middle East to participate in these training sessions. This not only increases awareness among officials, but also assists in building relationships and promoting information sharing among the various authorities. Dubai Customs also works closely with the Brand Protection Group of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Yemen, a group formed by brand owners and service providers to support the enforcement of IP laws in the region.
Efforts are also made to increase awareness among consumers of counterfeits about the dangers associated with them. Dubai Customs regularly organizes campaigns in Dubai through signboards, leaflets, and visits to schools and universities.
Furthermore, Dubai Customs is willing to extend its cooperation with customs authorities from other countries, as shown by the signature of a memorandum of understanding with French Customs in 2008. This memorandum contained various provisions dealing with cooperation at different levels on IP matters in general, and enforcement in particular. 
Finally, in early 2009 the IP rights section of Dubai Customs was confirmed as the competent authority for supervising anti-counterfeiting measures and actions in one of the major commercial free zones of Dubai, Dragon Mart. Dragon Mart is a huge trading hub for Chinese-sourced products located in the outskirts of Dubai City. A team of four permanent customs officers has been assigned to Dragon Mart.
However, there are still crucial areas for improvement, including:
  • the automatic destruction of counterfeit goods seized by Customs (rather than re-exportation);
  • the strengthening of the range of penalties imposed on importers/traders of counterfeits;
  • the monitoring and detention of counterfeit goods in transit; and
  • the refining of techniques for targeting shipments suspected of containing counterfeits. 
Nevertheless, through continued interaction with brand owners, service providers and customs and IP officials, customs recordals in Dubai should become increasingly efficient. Ultimately, customs authorities from other emirates in the UAE may follow the precedent set by Dubai Customs in implementing a dedicated IP rights sections.
Stanislas Barro, Rouse & Co International, Dubai           

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