Customs surveillance of IP rights: a double protection in France
Customs surveillance may prove a very useful aid in the enforcement of IP rights. Particularly in France, which ranks as the third country with the most effective IP system in the world by the U.S. Chamber International IP Index (Eighth Edition – 2020), customs surveillance is a quick and efficient preventive step that can be taken even if the IP right holder is not aware of all acts of infringement.
Whatever the IP right (copyright, trademark, design, patent/SPC, etc.), right holders can benefit from additional protection under both the French IP Code and the European system provided by Regulation (EU) 608/2013.
These two procedures are complementary and can be requested free of charge. The Regulation allows goods to be detained before customs clearance at EU borders with third countries, while the IP Code provides for checks of goods already cleared through customs and in circulation within the national territory.
To benefit from the action of the Customs and facilitate the interception of suspicious goods, IP right holders must file an application for action (AFA) and provide Customs with some relevant information: the IP right covered, the genuine and allegedly infringing goods, the infringement network… Once approved by the Customs authorities, the AFA is valid for a one-year period and can be renewed upon written request.
An AFA will allow the Customs authorities to detain for a period of ten days the suspicious goods (e.g., products with a similar trademark affixed to them) and alert the IP right holder so that it may assess whether its rights have actually been infringed and determine the most appropriate course of action (release, “simplified destruction” or judicial proceedings).