Customs and police – reluctant to help?

In Insights, Uncategorized

22 October, 2008

Are Swedish customs officers and police reluctant when it comes to helping IP rights holders combat illegal copying? It may look like that – at least when they are compared with their colleagues in Germany. Recently we have seen proof that their German counterparts can mobilise huge resources when this is necessary.

At the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin earlier this autumn over 200 police and customs officers launched an offensive against the sale of pirated products after receiving around 70 reports from rights holders. The raid resulted in the seizure of televisions, MP3 players, mobile phones and other electronic gadgetry.

Could something similar happen in Sweden? It’s certainly not impossible, although it must be acknowledged that customs authorities and the police here are struggling with a shortage of resources. Compared to drugs smuggling and murder, trademark and patent infringement come far down the list of priorities. This is something that rights holders need to understand if they have cause to report infringement to the authorities.

To secure the help you need, it is important to make the authorities understand why their involvement is necessary. If you have received information about a consignment of counterfeit goods, there is often only a very short window of opportunity during which these can be confiscated. Otherwise the goods will soon disappear into a shadowy network of dealers among whom any seizures will consist of a mere handful of products. Working together with competitors who have also been targeted by the pirates, as was the case in Germany, is a smart move. In Sweden with its well-established traditions of trade associations, the prospects for this kind of collaboration should be good.

What’s more, it’s high time to explode the myth of pirates as unfortunate entrepreneurs who are down on their luck! Interpol has provided clear proof that the global counterfeiting industry helps to finance terror organisations, and the industry’s close links to drugs smuggling, organised crime and the mafia have been known for years.

The basic requirement for combating product piracy is a well-informed, active network of dealers and other contacts who can sound the alarm immediately when any illegal copies are discovered. Notifying the customs authorities of this costs nothing, and the Swedish Customs Service is happy to receive any information that makes it easier for its officers to identify counterfeit goods. But, of course, the first rule is always to make sure that your products are protected by strong and strategically managed IP rights.

Kristina Fredlund, Senior Attorney at Law

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