Six African countries try to get to grips with counterfeiting

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has launched Operation ‘Vice Grips’ to give effect to its determination to take concrete action against counterfeiting and piracy.  
Aided by six countries (Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia), this voluntary operation sought to conduct simultaneous inspections of imported consignments that may potentially contain counterfeit and pirated goods.
Initially, the operation was scheduled to last only one week, with thorough controls being conducted at the following ports:
  • Damietta (Egypt);
  • Thema (Ghana);
  • Casablanca (Morocco);
  • Lagos (Nigeria);
  • Dakar (Senegal); and
  • Tunis (Tunisia).  
Operational teams led by national customs experts from participating countries, supported by WCO IP rights specialists, targeted fake pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, spare parts, cigarettes, everyday consumer goods, fabrics, CDs and DVDs. The results of these simultaneous operations will be collated in Dakar, where the headquarters of the Operational Coordinating Unit are located.
The primary objective of Operation ‘Vice Grips’ was not so much to catch counterfeiters as to build the capacity of national customs authorities. The operation also represented an opportunity to:
  • quantify and qualify the scope of fraudulent trade;
  • identify new fraud routes and places of concealment; and
  • unearth new fraud techniques.
Operation ‘Vice Grips’ will eventually be extended to other ports in Africa.
Jeremy Phillips, IP consultant to Olswang, London

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