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Pirates Foiled By Customs – Business Partnerships

New Zealand’s system for stopping counterfeit and pirated copies coming into this country has reached a significant milestone with 100 Border Protection Notices having been lodged with the New Zealand Customs Service.

The Comptroller of Customs, Robin Dare, says some companies still don't realise they have to lodge notices before Customs can act on their behalf to detain goods suspected to be copies of their brand.

“We know that the notices are a highly effective deterrent. We are aware that if importers of fake products have goods intercepted, then they will often switch to importing a different counterfeit mark.”

In the six years since this system began, Customs has intercepted more than a quarter of a million counterfeit items - a diverse range of goods including clothing, perfume, tuna, toys and potato chips.

Robin Dare says Customs knows some counterfeit goods are still coming in to the country, and would welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with more copyright and trademark holders through the Brand Protection Notice system.

Tony Newman, Managing Director of Newman International Licensing Ltd says, “We were aware that counterfeit merchandise has been entering New Zealand for some time, however we were unable to quantify the volume and frequency. Since New Zealand Customs introduced the program of lodging notices, we have been amazed at the number of counterfeit shipments that they have intercepted.”


Border Protection Notices

Q. Can Customs officers seize any goods that they suspect are counterfeit?
A. No. Customs officers have the power to intercept suspected pirated or counterfeit goods under the Trade Marks Act 1953 and Copyright Act 1994, but they can only detain – not seize – the goods if the rights owner has lodged a notice with Customs requesting detention of the goods while they are subject to Customs control.

Q. So a trademark holder or copyright owner has to lodge a notice with the Customs Service if they want pirated or counterfeit goods detained?
A. Yes. If they want pirated or counterfeit goods stopped at the border, they must lodge a notice. No notice – no action.

Q. So what happens when somebody imports some counterfeit Nike shoes for example?
A. Customs has a notice for the Nike trademarks. If Customs intercepts a shipment of shoes that look like counterfeit items, Nike will be asked for confirmation. Nike is required to give reasons to show the goods are counterfeit.

Q. When goods are intercepted and detained by Customs officers what happens after that?
A. It’s then up to the rights owner to start action through the courts to prove that the goods are fake.

Q. How long are Customs allowed to detain goods for?
A. The rights owner has 10 days in which to start court proceedings. If no court proceedings have been started by then, the goods are released.

Q. What happens to the goods if they are found to be counterfeit?
A. Importers of counterfeit goods often surrender the goods to the Crown rather than face court action. The trademark holders are consulted by Customs over the disposal of the goods, but they usually request that the goods be destroyed rather than release fakes onto the market.


Q. How do you lodge a notice with Customs?
A. Rights owners are encouraged to contact Customs first to discuss the process of lodging a notice. The notice must set out who owns the trademark or copyright, and what is covered by it.

Q. How much does it cost?
A. The rights owner deposits a refundable sum – usually $5000 – and completes a form of indemnity, to cover any costs that Customs might incur for storage, transport or destruction of goods, or for legal fees.

Q. After a notice has been lodged, how long does it last for?
A. Once a notice is lodged, it lasts for five years or, in the case of a trademark, until the trademark registration expires – whichever comes first.

Q. What sort of brands are border protected in New Zealand?
A. Many well-known brands are border protected in New Zealand. These range from clothing and fashion accessory labels such as Rolex, Louis Vuitton, or Faberge; foodstuffs such as New Zealand’s Wahoo Tuna; music and entertainment brands such as Universal Music & Video, Harry Potter and The Flintstones; sports brands such as Puma; or other worldwide brands such as Kodak.

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