On April 25, 2023, the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China released the Typical Cases of China Customs Intellectual Property Protection in 2022 (2022年中国海关知识产权保护典型案例). The cases cover sportswear, toothpaste, automotive parts, watches, electronics and other products. As can be seen from the following cases, Customs will seize not only imported goods but also goods for export. As China is the “factory to the world” and a large source of counterfeits, seizing goods for export at the Chinese border can be more efficient than trying to seize counterfeits for import at hundreds of ports worldwide. Customs will also refer cases to the police for criminal enforcement, which may act as an effective deterrent.
The summary of cases from Chinese Customs follows.
Case 1 Xiamen Customs Seizure Case of exporting infringing luxury brand bags
In September 2022, Gaoqi Customs, a subsidiary of Xiamen Customs, inspected a batch of goods declared for export by a supply chain company in Quanzhou, and found a total of 2,259 pairs of casual shoes of nearly ten internationally renowned sports brands such as UMBRO. In addition, a batch of untruthfully declared brand bags were included in this batch of goods. After inspection, it was found that 1,196 bags, their outer packaging, and accompanying labels were marked with multiple internationally renowned luxury brand logos. The above-mentioned brand bags are all well-packed and well-made, and some of them are accompanied by a complete set of overseas purchase and customs clearance “certificates” such as overseas shopping invoices, card swiping slips, and overseas customs release documents. The price of each bag is equivalent to more than 8,000 RMB. After identification by the trademark owner, the above-mentioned shoes and bags were determined to be infringing products, and Customs detained them in accordance with the law, and at the same time notified the public security organs to jointly carry out an investigation.
According to the evidence provided by Customs, the public security organs arrested 18 criminal suspects, destroyed 3 dens for manufacturing and hiding counterfeit goods, and seized more than 9,000 bags and sports shoes intended to leave the country, with a case value of 357 million RMB. After preliminary investigation, the suspect planned to smuggle the above-mentioned package out of the country, and then sell it back into the country by overseas “purchasing” personnel in the form of cross-border sales, passing off the fake as the real one, and earning high profits.
This case is a typical case where Customs pay attention to new methods of infringement and effectively protects the legitimate rights and interests of domestic consumers. In recent years, with the development of the economy, the public’s demand for luxury goods has been increasing, and emerging shopping models such as “overseas purchasing agent” and “overseas shopping” are in the ascent. In this case, the criminal suspect seized the “business opportunity” and exported the infringing goods first and then reimported them, forming a complete chain of “smuggling out of the country-purchasing agent and mailing-reselling domestically” to deceive domestic consumers. The investigation and handling of this case effectively protected the legitimate rights and interests of the IP-owners and domestic consumers, guided and reminded the public to consume rationally and purchase overseas products through formal channels.
Case 2 Guangzhou Customs Seizure case of exporting infringing toothpaste
In April 2022, an import and export company in Lianyungang declared to the customs to export a batch of goods to Singapore, a member state of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), in the form of general trade. The Risk Prevention and Control Bureau (Huangpu) of the General Administration of Customs (Huangpu) seized the batch of goods on the basis of the infringement trend information provided by Huangpu Customs. The law enforcement officers of Guangzhou Customs found that toothpaste marked with “COLGATE” was contained in the container. 136,512 tubes, worth 1.365 million RMB. The IP owner believed that the above-mentioned goods were suspected of infringing its trademark rights filed with the General Administration of Customs. Guangzhou Customs detained the above-mentioned suspected infringing goods in accordance with the law. After investigation, it makes an administrative penalty decision of confiscating the infringing goods and imposing a fine.
This case is a typical case of Customs promoting the implementation of the RCEP and effectively cracking down on infringement. During the period when the Customs launched a special action on intellectual property protection, “Longteng Action 2022”, it strengthened the supervision and risk prevention and control of infringing goods exported to RCEP member countries, increased the promotion of RCEP customs protection policies for intellectual property rights, and promoted the effective implementation of the RCEP agreement. In this case, the Customs strengthened the joint prevention and control of infringement risks, improved the response mechanism, gave full play to the overall joint force of the customs supervision chain, and improved the effectiveness of cross-border infringement governance.
Case 3 Shenzhen customs seized the case of imported clothing infringing trademark rights
In August 2022, a company in Guangxi entrusted a company in Hunan to declare a batch of imported goods to the Customs in the form of general trade. There were 3,539 pieces of down jackets and other goods with “MLB” and other marks, and the value of the goods was 455,600 RMB. Relevant rights holders believe that the above-mentioned goods are suspected of infringing their trademark rights filed with the General Administration of Customs. In September 2022, Customs detained the suspected infringing goods in accordance with the law. After investigation, they made an administrative penalty decision of confiscating the infringing goods and imposing a fine.
This case is a typical case of Customs fulfilling its duties as a national gate guard and cracking down on infringements and violations in the import process. With the transformation and upgrading of domestic industries and the continuous improvement of people’s living standards, domestic consumers’ demand for well-known brand consumer goods is increasing, and some infringing and counterfeit products are waiting for opportunities to flood into the country. In this case, the Customs gave full play to its advantages in the supervision of real goods, and based on relevant characteristics such as the origin of imported goods, keenly identified the risk of infringement, and accurately investigated and seized infringing goods. This case demonstrates the responsibility of the Customs to effectively crack down on import infringement and illegal acts, prevent infringing and counterfeit goods from flowing into the domestic market, and protect the rights and interests of right holders and consumers.
Case 4 Huangpu Customs protects the invention patent of mineral processing equipment for small and medium-sized enterprises
In July 2022, a mineral processing company in Guangzhou submitted an application to Huangpu Customs, claiming that the mining equipment (spiral chute) that a Guangzhou company was about to export to Malaysia at the Huangpu Old Port in Guangzhou was suspected of infringing its invention patent, and applied to the Customs to detain the equipment and submitted evidentiary materials such as the invention patent certificate and an infringement analysis to Customs. Huangpu Customs immediately reviewed the materials provided by the company and took precise control measures. On July 14, when Huangpu Customs inspected the batch of goods, it found 15 sets of two-slot spiral chute equipment and 41 sets of three-slot spiral chute equipment for mining equipment, which were suspected of infringing on the invention patent of the rights holder. On July 20, Huangpu Customs detained the above-mentioned allegedly infringing goods according to law. After Customs detained the allegedly infringing goods, the right holder filed an infringement lawsuit to the court. Customs actively cooperated with the court to collect evidence of allegedly infringing goods to ensure the smooth rights protection of the right holder.
This case is a typical case of customs protecting the core patents of small and medium-sized enterprises and helping the private economy to flourish. Small and medium-sized enterprises are a vital force in the development of the national economy and society. The rights holder in this case has obtained invention patents in six countries including China, with annual sales of more than 10 million RMB. The counterfeit patented products in the market have encroached on the rights holder’s market share. A this can seriously affect the survival and development of enterprises, Customs actively supports small and medium-sized enterprises to innovate and protect their rights, and provides one-on-one guidance services for rights holders. This case is a vivid practice of customs making full use of its intellectual property protection functions to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, and to assist enterprises in their difficulties.
Case 5 Jiangmen Customs Seizure Case of exporting infringing motorcycle engines and accessories
In June 2022, Jiangmen Customs received reports from a motorcycle technology company in Guangdong that a large number of its own brand motorcycles had been infringed in overseas markets. Jiangmen Customs immediately launched rights protection assistance for the company. In August, Jiangmen Customs, based on the tipoffs provided by the rights holder, seized 15 containerized motorcycle parts declared for export by a Jiangmen technology company. After inspection, it was found that there were 6,000 150CC engines marked with graphic logos of wings and motorcycle engines. 5 tons of accessories and 105.99 tons of other motorcycle components, worth 9.4235 million RMB, are suspected of infringing on the “Haojiang” trademark registered by the right holder in the General Administration. The rights holder believed that the batch of goods was suspected of infringing its trademark rights filed with the General Administration of Customs and filed an application for protection, and the customs detained the above-mentioned suspected infringing goods according to law.
During the process of handling the case, Jiangmen Customs found that there were 24 other containers in the supervision area containing related goods that matched the above-mentioned engines and accessories under seizure, but they had not yet been declared. Customs quickly provided the relevant evidence to the Market Supervision Administration. The rights holder filed a property preservation application with the people’s court for the related goods in the 24 containers, and Customs assisted the court in the execution according to law.
This case is a typical case of Customs promoting cross-department law enforcement cooperation and building a large-scale protection pattern of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property protection is a systematic project. Customs, as an entry and exit supervision and management agency, is an important link in the national intellectual property protection system. Together with domestic production, sales, circulation and other links of intellectual property protection, it forms an organic whole of intellectual property protection. In this case, the Customs took the initiative to notify the market supervision and management department, actively assisted the judiciary, promoted the protection of the entire chain of intellectual property rights, and conducted beneficial explorations for the improvement of a smooth, fast and efficient collaborative protection mechanism.
Case 6 Shanghai, Shantou, Dalian, and Nanning Customs Protection Cases of Intellectual Property Rights of Foreign-funded Enterprises
In January 2022, when Yangshan Customs under Shanghai Customs inspected a batch of brake pumps, camshafts and other goods declared for export by a trading company in Ningbo, they found a large number of undeclared “TOYOTA” and “FORD” parts hidden inside the container. There are more than 105,000 spark plugs, cylinder gaskets, piston rings and other goods with 15 automobile brand logos, worth more than 610,000 RMB. Confirmed by the rights holders, the above-mentioned auto parts were all determined to be infringing products.
In January 2022, when Guangao Customs, a subsidiary of Shantou Customs, inspected a batch of toys declared for export by an import and export company in Zhuji, they found that there were 30,000 balloons, each marked with many famous animation movie cartoon characters, such as from Frozen and Minions. Confirmed by the copyright owner of the above work, the balloons were determined to be infringing products.
In July 2022, Dalian Customs discovered a sharp increase in the number of export pens in the customs area, and determined that there was a large risk of infringement, so it launched a special law enforcement action. In August, during the inspection of the Beiliang Port Customs, it was found that the outer packing boxes of the ballpoint pens declared for export were in unmarked packaging, but the ballpoint pens themselves were marked with the “PILOT” logo, and a total of 240,000 pens were found. At the same time, the affiliated Dayaowan Customs seized 3,050 ballpoint pens marked with the logo of “Mitsubishi Graphics.” Confirmed by the rights holders, the above-mentioned ballpoint pens were all determined to be infringing products.
In July 2022, when Longbang Customs under Nanning Customs inspected the groceries exported by a company in Jingxi City, they found a total of 4765 watches marked with “TISSOT,” “TAGHEUER,” “OMEGA,” “SEIKO” and “LONGINES” marks worth RMB 1,006,000. They were confirmed by the rights holders to be infringing products.
This series of cases is a typical case where the Customs protects the rights and interests of foreign-invested enterprises in accordance with the law, creates a first-class business environment, and promotes a higher level of opening up. Intellectual property protection is related to the overall situation of the country’s opening up to the outside world. Strict protection of intellectual property rights is conducive to continuously optimizing the business environment and building a higher level of open economic system. In this series of cases, Customs has always adhered to the concept of “equal protection” and equally protected the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese and foreign enterprises.
Case 7 Hangzhou, Lanzhou, Tianjin, and Kunming Customs Strengthened Executions Linked with Investigation and Prosecution of Export Infringing Goods Series Cases
In January 2022, when Hangzhou Customs inspected a batch of goods exported by rail, it was found that the goods were actually titanium dioxide pigments, totaling 11,875 kilograms and worth 314,500 RMB. The rights holder believes that the above-mentioned goods are suspected of infringing its “TI-PURE” trademark registered with the General Administration of Customs. Hangzhou Customs quickly launched the “coordination of the two laws” mechanism and notified the case to the public security organ for criminal investigation. At present, the public security organs have initiated criminal investigation of the two suspects.
In May 2022, Lanzhou Customs found 7,134 pairs of infringing sports shoes at the Bonded Logistics Center (Type B) in Wuwei, Gansu when inspecting a batch of out-of-area goods, involving 7 trademark rights including “DSQUARED²”, worth RMB 303,600. Confirmed by the rights holder, the above-mentioned sports shoes are all infringing products, and the Customs detained them according to law and handed them over to the public security organs for investigation.
In June 2022, Tianjin Customs seized 933 infringing tie-rods worth RMB 1,116,500 in the freight channel, suspected of infringing on the trademark rights of “BMW”, “Graphic (Little Yellow Man)” and “CARS – STYLE GUIDE PACKAGING AND RETAIL SIGNAGE” copyright. Confirmed by the rights holder, the above tie-rods are all infringing products. Tianjin Customs launched the “coordination of the two laws” mechanism in accordance with the law, and cooperated with the public security organs to arrest three suspects at the production and sales ends.
In July 2022, Kunming Customs discovered in Nansan Port’s border cross-market channels that Yu XX’s liquor packages declared for export were printed with graphic signs of “Sky Blue” and “Sea Blue” for a total of 34 boxes and 168 bottles, worth RMB 120,000 yuan. The rights holder believes that the above-mentioned goods are suspected of infringing the trademark rights of “sky blue and graphics” and “sea blue and graphics” filed with the General Administration of Customs. Kunming Customs strengthened the “coordination of the two laws” and cooperated with the public security organs to subsequently seize more than 900 boxes of counterfeit liquor that infringed trademark rights.
This series of cases are typical cases where the Customs bases its administrative enforcement on intellectual property rights protection on strong public opinion, public opinion concerns, and key areas and regions where infringements and counterfeits are frequent, and vigorously promotes the connection between administrative enforcement and criminal justice. In this series of cases, Customs actively carried out the practice of “connection of the two laws” in different channels such as freight, bonded, and border residents’ exchanges, seized the infringing products and gave full play to the advantages of timely interception of products infringing registered intellectual property in the import and export links. Customs cooperates with the public security organs to “strike at the source, destroy the network, and break the chain” to implement a strong crackdown on illegal and criminal activities that infringe on intellectual property rights.
Case 8 Fuzhou, Qingdao and Gongbei Customs investigated and dealt with a series of cross-border e-commerce channel infringement cases
In March 2022, Rongcheng Customs under Fuzhou Customs found a batch of costumes with rough manufacturing and crude packaging when conducting inspection on parcels declared for export by a company in Fujian through cross-border e-commerce trade. Upon data retrieval, it was found that the company declared several batches of parcels for export at the same time. Upon further inspection, it was found that 1,660 pieces of clothing and footwear were suspected of infringing upon 35 well known brands, which were confirmed by the right holders as infringing products.
In July 2022, when inspecting a batch of goods declared for export in the form of cross-border e-commerce trade, Jiaodong Airport Customs, a subsidiary of Qingdao Customs, found that there were multiple doubtful points in the declaration list, such as vague names of goods, highly similar names, and highly similar of sub-shipment document numbers. The customs opened boxes one by one for inspection and found that there were 12,943 pieces of various infringing commodities, such as charging plugs, mobile phone back panels, and messenger bags, suspected of infringing upon the trademark rights of more than 20 brands, including “SAMSUNG” and “APPLE” with a value of 267,000 RMB , which were confirmed by the right holders as infringing products.
In November 2022, when Hengqin Customs, a subsidiary of Gongbei Customs, opened and inspected 582 packages declared for export by a company in the form of cross-border e-commerce trade, they found a large number of parcels embroidered with FIFA and the 2022 Qatar World Cup logo. The right holders contacted confirmed that they had infringed upon the relevant intellectual property rights of the International Football Federation and the 2022 Qatar World Cup “QATAR 2022” “FIFA” “Hercules Cup graphics”.
This series of cases is a typical case of the customs’ adherence to “combination of punishment and promotion” and promotion of the healthy development of new business forms. In recent years, the rapid development of cross-border e-commerce has greatly expanded the access of enterprises to the international market and gradually become a new growth engine of China’s foreign trade. In this series of cases, in view of the fast customs clearance speed of cross-border e-commerce trade logistics, the complexity of commodity varieties, and the vast amount of information corresponding to lists, the Customs fully utilized the advantages of big data monitoring and analysis, improved the intellectual property protection law enforcement level, and maintained the order of import and export trade through cross-border e-commerce channels. At the same time, the Customs shall strengthen the publicity of compliance in cross-border e-commerce business, enhance enterprises’ awareness of law-abiding business operations, and guide enterprises to voluntarily comply with the laws and regulations on customs protection of intellectual property rights.
Case 9 Nanjing, Beijing, and Urumqi customs inspected and seized a series of infringing articles through postal channels
Suzhou Customs under the Nanjing Customs found several abnormal cases of parcels sent abroad from Suzhou, Changzhou and other places during the routine pass-through inspection of outgoing parcels. After key inspection, the Customs found the parcels marked with the “Olympic five-ring pattern” jersey, “Disney” shoes, “Benz” car logo and other articles. Suzhou Customs, by relying on the mode of “on-site inspection + risk control”, extracted the elements of infringing information for risk control. Eventually, 1,098 batches of key buttons, clothing, shoes and hats, and auto parts, involving more than 2,000 articles, were seized from outgoing postal parcels suspected of infringing upon the exclusive rights to Olympic symbols such as the design of the Olympic mascot, and trademark rights such as “Disney.”
When checking the postal express delivery sent out by mail from Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi and other places, the post office customs under the Beijing Customs found that the senders of several batches of mails were unknown, there was no specific address and contact information, and the parcel contents were marked as “foam pads.” Upon inspection, the aforesaid express mail totaled 1,270 batches, and nearly 3,000 cigarettes with “Marlboro” and other marks were included in them, which were confirmed by the right holders as infringing products.
The post office customs office affiliated to the Urumqi customs urged postal enterprises to accurately and timely declare and transmit information, and conduct risk analysis on the relevant information on contractors, senders, and sensitive commodities, among others. A total of 8,280 infringing articles were detained, 12 trademark rights of more than ten brand right holders were suspected of being infringed upon, and the value of the infringing articles was 247,100 RMB.
This series of cases is a typical case of the Customs cracking down on the “ant relocation”-style infringement and law-breaking acts by relying on the capability of science and technology. The Customs has launched the “Blue Net Campaign” to protect intellectual property rights in the delivery channels for three consecutive years, and has continued to strengthen the customs protection of intellectual property rights in the delivery channels. In this series of cases, the Customs has created an intelligent risk control model, targeted key postal routes related to the entry and exit of infringing high-risk commodities, fully utilized the CT comparison on the same screen to screen the inspection of infringement risks, embedded innovative scientific and technological applications in the whole process of intellectual property law enforcement, and achieved rapid identification and precise attack. The Customs has continued to expand the fruits of the campaign by effectively integrating machine inspection and manual inspection, so as to continuously improve the efficiency of intellectual property protection law enforcement.
Case 10 Ningbo, Chengdu, Changsha, and Jinan customs seized a series of infringing game cards
In February 2022, when Meishan Customs under the Ningbo Customs conducted inspection on a batch of goods named “silicone toys” and “plastic wallets” declared for export by a company in Yiwu, it found 4,576,000 game cards, 14,700 game cards and 2,460 sets of toy sets with the logo of “POKEMON” interposed therein. Upon confirmation of the right holder, the aforesaid game cards, card books and toy sets were infringing products.
In March 2022, Chengdu Shuangliu Airport Customs under Chengdu Customs seized 1,488,300 card plates, 18,000 card booklets, 16,200 commemorative coins, 72,000 sets of plastic protective cases and supporting packaging paper, and the goods were marked with the mark of “POKEMON” in export freight channels. Upon confirmation of the rights holder, the batch of goods was determined to be infringing.
In May 2022, a company in Changsha declared a batch of paper cards for export to the Xingsha Customs Office under the Changsha Customs Office in the form of market procurement trade and planned to transport them overseas via the China Europe Railway Express through the Korgas Port. Upon inspection, it was found that the batch of goods was marked with the mark of “POKEMON” totaling 198,000 sheets. Upon confirmation of the right holders, the game cards were infringing.
In January 2022, Jinan Airport Customs, affiliated to Jinan Customs, conducted on-site inspections of clothing, game cards and other goods declared for export by a company in Nanjing in the form of general trade, and found 320,000 game cards marked with the “POKEMON” logo among the actual goods. The rights holder confirmed the above goods were infringing products. In November 2022, Jinan Airport Customs seized another 25,000 infringing game cards exported by another company in Nanjing.
This series of cases are typical cases where Customs pay attention to the new trend of infringement and effectively curb the infringement of new consumer goods. With the development of the global work-from-home policy, the proportion of infringements seized by customs on imported and exported indoor entertainment consumer goods has risen. Customs has been acutely aware of the new trend of infringement, focused on high-incidence infringing commodities to carry out special control, and conducted real-time dynamic monitoring of infringement. On the one hand, the Customs strengthened evidence exchange and information sharing, which has formed a pattern of “one set of chess” across the country. On the other hand, Customs has strengthened the connection between the Two Laws. In cooperation with the public security organs, Customs has successfully smashed the counterfeit manufacturing dens and arrested several criminal suspects, which has effectively protected the legitimate rights and interests of right holders and the health and safety of consumers, especially children, and consumers.
The original announcement may be found here (Chinese only).