AI helps Hong Kong customs to increase seizures

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Using artificial intelligence, Hong Kong customs have increased seizures by about one third in the last six months. At the same time, there are demands to implement further improvements in two important fields of action.

Artificial intelligence helps Hong Kong customs taking counterfeit goods out of circulation. Since December 2017, investigators have been using a supercomputer that has helped them track down around 2,000 of the 5,200 counterfeits that they seized within the last six months. In total, fake items worth over 1.96 million Hong Kong dollars (ca. 215,000 euro) were seized – an increase of around 30 percent, year on year (compared to 1.47 million Hong Kong dollars in the previous year period, equivalent to about 160,000 euro).

The supercomputer trawls social media and online shops for suspicious offers. The collected data is evaluated with the aid of artificial intelligence in order to identify user accounts of possible counterfeiters. The big data analysis compares different platforms simultaneously and analyses keywords, entire sentences, or current trends. The aim is to flag up suspect traders for the authorities.

A particularly interesting example case happened in April, when the supercomputer found five suspicious shops that had been offering goods via several accounts on various social networks. During subsequent raids, Hong Kong officials found counterfeit brand-name clothing, watches, and bags worth around 160,000 Hong Kong dollars (approx. 17,000 euro). Six people, suspected of trading in a mixture of genuine and counterfeit branded products, were arrested.

The customs’ new approach is seen as positive by lawyer Alan Chiu, Managing Partner of the Hong Kong law firm Ella Cheong & Alan Chiu. However, he sees a need for further action with regards to the customs’ cooperation with their international colleagues, especially those from mainland China, and with trademark owners. As another pressing problem, he mentions the increasing shipment of counterfeits via small mail items: “With the proliferation of e‑commerce – especially platforms such as Alibaba, Taobao, Tmall and – there has been an influx of counterfeits from Mainland China into Hong Kong by way of small parcels.”

Sources: South China Morning Post, World Trademark Review

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