IP Topics & ArticlesAn Effective Tool Against Counterfeit And Pirated Goods

An Effective Tool Against Counterfeit And Pirated Goods: Customs Measures In Turkey

Turkey’s position as a hub between Europe and Asia makes it especially important in the struggle against counterfeiting. Customs applications are a useful weapon used by authorities in the fight to protect IP, as Oktay Simsek reports.

Turkey  has  a  special  global  geographical location,  at  a  crossroads  of  the  flow  of  goods between Europe and Asia. This puts Turkey in a critical  position  regarding  counterfeited  goods traffic within the European Union (EU) internal market and  the external markets,  to where  fake goods produced in Turkey are exported.

The  counterfeit  market  in  Turkey  is  huge, although  recently the  police  and  customs authorities  have  worked  together  to  prevent sales  of  counterfeits.  There  have  also  been various programmes to raise public awareness of counterfeits.

To  effectively  tackle  the  production  and  sale of  counterfeited  goods,  Turkey  amended  its customs rules covering intellectual and industrial rights in 2009 and 2010 to comply with those in the EU.

Turkish  customs  authorities  have  simplifield destruction  systems,  extended  customs applications from one month to 12 months and created centralised customs application systems for  IP protection  at Turkish  customs,  replacing the practice of filing customs applications at each customs authority separately. Turkish  customs  authorities have  also  arranged a  number  of  training  programmes  for  customs officials  and  controllers,  and  developed their  so-ware  capability  to  monitor  customs applications more effciently.

Despite  these  attempts,  according  to  the World Economic  Forum’s  Global Competitiveness Report (2011–2012), Turkey is still ranked in 86 out of 144 countries in terms of the quality of IP protection.

You can still see fake and imitated goods in daily life,  which  is  mostly  because  of  low  purchase power,  insufficient  awareness  about  customer rights and lack of enforcement of the laws in due course, etc. These factors make Turkey a country in which IP owners need to protect their rights.

Considering  the  intercontinental  location  of Turkey, customs applications are an effective tool used by the customs authorities to protect IP.

Customs Applications and Enforcement
Customs applications can be filed for intellectual and  artistic  works  (copyrights),  topographies of  integrated  circuits,  breeders’  rights  of new  plant  varieties,  patent  and  utility  model rights,  industrial  design  rights,  geographical indications,  trademarks,  supplementary protection certificates and other intellectual and industrial property rights.

Filing Procedures for Customs Applications
The  customs  applications  can  be  filed electronically at the Turkish customs authorities by  using  a  specific  form,  namely  Ek-13,  or  by using an electronic data exchange system. If the rights holder  is  located abroad, a representative specifically  appointed  by  an  attorney  or authorised person (licensee, distributor, etc) can file a request on behalf of the rights holder.

The rights holders can file centralised applications for customs applications at the Turkish Customs Directorate. All the Turkish customs authorities can access the database every day.

The application should cover information enabling the customs authority to identify the goods requiring IP protection. In this regard, it is important for the rights  holder  to  provide  any  information  to  allow the customs authorities to easily recognise the goods during their routine checks.    

The Customs Application Should Cover:

  • Technical details of the goods (eg, pictures of the products on a CD);

  • Any  information  regarding  the  type  of counterfeiting actions;

  • The contact information, including name and address, of the rights holder;

  • Registration  or  grant  certificate  proving  that the right is registered and protected in Turkey (letters  patent,  registration  certificate  for trademarks, etc); and

  • The requested term during which the customs authority should take action. The term cannot be more than one year. 

Customs applications last no more than one year and  are  renewable  at  the  end  of  the  one-year surveillance period. Any customs application  is concluded within one month of  the application date by the customs authorities.

If the  application  is  refused  by  the  customs authorities, the applicant for the customs action can object to the refusal of the application.

Customs Detention Procedures Notification of Suspended Goods by the Customs Authorities
When the goods are identified as counterfeit, the customs  authorities  stop  processing  the  goods and detain them. The customs authorities notify the rights holder or its representative, as well as the holder of the detained goods, within one day following their detention, by facsimile or email.

The rights holder has  the option  to check  the suspected fake goods, and demand a sample to determine whether they are actually infringing its  IP  rights. Any  analysis  or  expert  fees  to determine  the  infringement  of  rights,  as well as  fees  to  supervise  the  customs  officers, should  be  paid  by  the  rights  holder  and  the rights  holder must  declare  its  consent where the application is filed.

When the rights holder has been notified of the suspended goods, there are two ways to prevent their entry into Turkey:

  • Applying  for  the  simplified  destruction procedure; or

  • Taking court action for the IP infringement.

Simplified Procedures for Destruction

The  simplified  destruction  procedure  is  very effective  and  cost-saving  for  fighting  against counterfeit actions as it doesn’t require filing any court  action,  and  thus  removes  the  burden  of court costs.

To  take advantage of  the  simplified procedures, the rights holder should file:

  • A  written  letter  stating  that  the  detained goods  infringe  IP  rights,  with  the  reasons the  detained  goods  should  be  identified  as counterfeit; and

  • A  letter  of  consent  from  the  owner  of  the detained goods declaring that the goods have been abandoned for destruction.

These  actions  must  be  completed  within  the specified  time  limit  (10 working days  from the receipt of notification or three days for perishable goods).

If the rights holder or the owner of the detained goods does not raise any objections, the customs office  can  apply  the  same procedure  to destroy the  goods, presuming  that  the parties  agree on their being destroyed. The  letter  of  consent  can  be directly  submitted to  the  customs  authorities by  the  declarant or  the  owner  of  the  detained  goods within  the same specified time limit, as long as the customs authorities accept the letter of consent from the declarant or the owner covering the destruction of the detained goods.

Court Action and Preliminary Injunction

If  the  rights  holder  does  not  use  the  simplified procedure,  the  rights holder  can file  a  request  to seize the goods and initiate legal procedures upon the notification of the counterfeit goods. If such a request  is  lodged,  the customs procedures can be suspended for 10 working days after filing a request. The rights holder can ask a criminal or civil court to implement a preliminary injunction, or file court action  directly  without  ordering  a  preliminary injunction. If a preliminary  injunction  is ordered, the rights holder should file court action within 10 days from the date of a preliminary injunction.

If  the  rights  holder  cannot  obtain  a  preliminary injunction  from  the court or does not  take direct court action within 10 days from the request, and the customs  formalities have been  already  completed for the detained goods, the customs authorities can release  the goods against a  reasonable  security  to protect the rights of the IP owner and to enable the rights holder to take legal action.

The  detained  goods  are  stored  by  the  customs authorities for the identified time and all the risks and costs for the storage are the responsibility of the rights holder.  

Court Decision and Afterwards
If  the  authorised  court  rules  that  the  detained goods are counterfeit, there are three possibilities for the destiny of the counterfeit goods:

If  the  court  rules  that  the  counterfeit  goods be  destroyed,  the  goods  are  disposed  of  by an authorised customs officer, provided  that all  the  costs  for  destruction  are  paid  by  the owner of the goods.

If  the  court  rules  that  the  counterfeit  goods should  be  handed  over  to  the  rights  holder after  altering  their  essential  character,  the character  of  the  counterfeit  goods  should  be substantively  changed  such  as  not  to  restore the  old  form.  Dismantling  the  marks  and labels on the counterfeit goods is not suffcient to change the essential characters of the goods.

If  the  court  rules  that  the  counterfeit  goods should be confiscated, the goods are reclaimed after change of their essential character is made.

Ex Officio Actions by the Customs Authorities
Customs  applications  specifically  filed  by the  rights-holders  to  detain  infringing  goods are  not  necessarily  required  in  all  cases. The customs  authorities  can  take  ex offcio actions to  prevent  counterfeit  activity without  needing any  customs  applications,  in  cases where  there is  clear  evidence  that  the  goods  are  fake.  For ex offcio  actions  for  detaining  the  goods,  the customs authorities can request the rights holder to provide detailed information and documents to recognise the suspected goods.

This article first appeared in An Effective Tool Against Counterfeit And Pirated Goods: Customs Measures In Turkey, a supplement to World Intellectual Property Review Annual 2013, published by Newtonmedia. To view the issue in full, please go to www.worldipreview.com

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