Customs Registration: how to stop infringing goods at source

Did you know that customs registration, or ‘IP customs notification’, can be used to help you to enforce your IP?  IP customs notification is a tool for IP rights holders to prevent cross-border transit of infringing goods.  In other words, it can be used to stop infringing goods at a border before they enter your principal markets from elsewhere, or even before they leave a country of manufacture.  It can be a hugely valuable tool because, used effectively, it could save you from having to try and locate the source of infringing goods after they have hit your market and damaged it, and then having to issue court proceedings against them to try and recoup your losses: by then, your market (and possibly even your brand and reputation) might be irreparably damaged by sub-standard copies, and the financial impact of that can be difficult to quantify, and even more difficult to compensate fully.

How can it help you?

Firstly, if you already have registered IP in, say, the UK and you know that infringing goods are entering your market from abroad, IP customs notification can be used to block shipments of the goods at the border.  This could represent a huge cost and time saving in the long run, because it saves you from pursuing each of a number of distributors of the goods in the UK, or trying to trace the source of the infringing goods so you can pursue them, during which time the infringing goods are still for sale in your market and damaging, not just your profits, but also (possibly) your brand and reputation.

Secondly, when deciding whether or not to secure registered IP protection in any country, it is worth checking whether or not they have an IP customs notification provision, and then thinking about what additional value would be added to your business model if you could prevent shipments of infringing goods from entering (or leaving) that country.  Purely by way of example, if you have an innovative product that you plan to sell (mainly) in the EU and USA, but it will be manufactured in, say, China or India.  Clearly, having registered IP protection in the EU and USA would be hugely valuable, but if you think the main source of any copies might come from your country of manufacture, is it worth obtaining registered IP there, even if it is just to allow you to prevent any shipments of infringing goods at source so that they never reach your main markets?  This could be especially powerful for blocking sub-standard or low quality copies that customers could buy thinking they are yours, which could damage your brand and reputation as well as your profits, and which are much more difficult to compensate for by damages in any court proceedings.

What happens after an IP customs notification has been successfully submitted?

Once you have successfully submitted an IP customs notification, the customs office in general will usually notify you (or your representative) of any infringing inbound (or, in some cases, outbound) shipments, and they could also potentially detain and destroy infringing goods.  However, legal proceedings may be required, and there are country-specific enforcement procedures, so qualified local expert counsel should always be used to assist.

Customs registration - What you should know

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**You should always consult with national customs agencies and/or a qualified attorney to confirm the IP customs notification requirements for any particular jurisdiction.  This is intended for informative purposes only, and should not be relied upon for specific circumstances.

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