HongFangLaw ~ Chinese IP Law Updates ~ n’ 22
27 April 2017
China Customs Publishes Its Top 10 IP Protection Cases of 2016
On April 20, 2017, China’s General Administration of Customs(GAC) published its top 10 intellectual property protection cases of 2016, one of which was related to a special operation on infringing activities involving imported lubricant. HongFangLaw, representing the involved lubricant brands, participated in the whole operation deployed by the China Customs and the Public Security Bureau (PSB).
As early as May 2016, clues to the infringement were identified when the GAC and the PSB worked closely to clamp down on an e-commerce platform for selling fake lubricant. As the authorities tracked down the thread, the case turned out to be a part of this mega infringement on lubricant in a cross-border trade. At stake were the import section, cross-border e-commerce platforms, as well as domestic consumers’ lives and property as the counterfeits circulated, therefore the GAC and the PSB decided to cooperate in the case dealing. They called upon local customs in Hangzhou, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Huangpu and Tianjin to set up special teams and deploy crackdowns accordingly. The authorities managed to carry out a thorough operation thanks to their division and coordination of labor: On one hand, they set out respective administrative arrangements and gave full play to enforcement forces in key areas; on the other, they exchanged information and shared resources, which brought timely intervention and excellent synergy.
The five local customs reported 6 cases to the PSB and seized fake lubricant mounting to 80 plus tons with a value of over RMB 9.5 million (approx. USD $1.4 million) after careful data monitoring of imported lubricant from key countries and active implementation of risk examination and prevention. The Huangpu and Tianjin Customs, as traditional shipping ports adept at risk examination and prevention, were capable of precisely targeting infringing imported lubricant without blocking the clearance of legal goods as they kept narrowing the operation scope by analyzing and filtering digital data, identifying suspicious targets, and studying the pattern in the declaration of counterfeits. During the operation, Huangpu Customs seized three batches of fake lubricant totaling 31.7 tons in Huangpu New Port and Dongguan Shatian Port. The Tianjin Customs seized another three batches with 38.1 tons in Tianjin New Port and Dongjiang Port. It was the first time we saw such an outrageous amount of seizure with such a tremendous value. As for the PSB, it crushed five domestic storage sites, held 11 suspects and seized 110,000 pails of infringing lubricant with the support of the Customs.
We can learn from the case that IPR infringement is a global issue and China is with no exception a victim to foreign counterfeits. This case stands out as it was dealt under the cooperation of the GAC and the PSB involving infringing imported goods with a huge value. The successful operation serves as a valuable experience, for reference in future cooperation between the two bureaus against infringement and in big cases. It is also a model able to guide the coordination between the Customs and e-commerce platforms.
The international community and mainstream media have also closely watched the case. The impressing effort and result made by the China Customs in combating cross-border fake lubricant were highly appraised in a visit to the GAC by the Commercial Counsellor at the British Embassy in China. Sean Dennehey, acting chief executive at the British Intellectual Property Office, highlighted them in a letter to the GAC from China-Britain Business Counsel, and in a visit to the Huangpu Customs. Central and local media including CCTV, International Business Daily, Guangdong Television, and Southcn.com published special reports on the case in a variety of forms, raising extensive attention from the public who also gave positive comments.
As the representative of the involved rights holders, HongFangLaw took part in the special operation and coordinated with the GAC and the PSB. We bridged e-commerce platforms and enforcement agencies, protected the legal rights of holders, and therefore ensured those of consumers.
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