Canadian customs see bad results in piracy protection

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With a reform of its piracy law three years ago, Canada wanted to strengthen its customs authority and take important steps towards IP protection. Since 2015, however, only 48 shipments with counterfeit goods were confiscated. Criticism comes particularly from the USA.

Canada launched a hotly debated reform of its piracy law, the so-called “Combating Counterfeit Products Act”, in early 2015 (we reported). Now the country is taking stock and received some alarming results. In the three years since the new law was introduced, Canadian customs officials have only confiscated 48 shipments of counterfeit goods – on average only 16 per year. By comparison, in Germany alone, around 21,500 shipments of counterfeit goods were seized by customs in 2017.

This result is especially straining for Canada’s trade relations. The Office of the US Trade Representative, for example, filed a complaint, criticizing Canada for not giving its customs officials the necessary authority to confiscate and destroy counterfeit products. In addition, the US criticizes the fact that Canadian customs cannot confiscate goods in transit.

This is reflected in the statistics of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). In the period from January 2015 to December 2017, 36 of the 48 intercepted shipments were released. In only eight cases were the confiscated counterfeits destroyed. A CBSA spokesperson pointed out that the Canadian Federal Police (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP) also seized counterfeits. For the RCMP cases, however, corresponding figures were not available.

According to IP lawyer Georgina Danzig, the reason for the poor results is that Canada often demands cumbersome involvement from affected trademark holders. For example, companies have to register their trademarks with customs and file a legal complaint even in undisputed counterfeiting cases in order to ensure the permanent confiscation or destruction of the confiscated products. This process is lengthy and can also result in high legal costs for trademark owners.

“It’s pathetic. It’s nothing to be proud of,” says Danzig of the CBSA’s findings. The IP expert from Toronto emphasizes that Canadian customs will have to significantly improve their cooperation with brand owners in the future. Above all, customs officials should promptly alert companies to potential IP violations, continues Danzig.

According to current regulations, Canadian customs must release suspicious goods after three days, if the trademark owner does not submit a ‘Request for Action’ (RFA) and confirms the counterfeiting suspicions. However, the RFA process, which many brand owners have to go through, takes around four to six weeks.

Shortly before the new piracy law was introduced in early 2015, then-Minister of Industry James Moore said the new law would provide effective protection against counterfeiting at the Canadian borders. So far, the opposite has been the case. “Customs needs to step up its game”, emphasizes Danzig.

Source: CBC

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