China Customs is extremely active in combating trademark counterfeiting. In 2020, the General Administration of Customs seized approximately 56 million products that infringed on intellectual property rights – of which 99.37% infringed on trademark rights. In contrast to this enormous volume of counterfeiting is the fact that many multinational companies are not even aware of the possibilities of Chinese customs for IP protection or even ignore them. According to the General Administration of Customs, a total of 17,667 IPR registration applications were approved by Customs in 2021, but only 5,929 of these were filed by foreign rights holders.
The legal protection granted by Customs for the import and export of goods is based on the legal and administrative regulations of the People’s Republic of China for trademarks, copyrights, patents, world exhibition marks and Olympic symbols. There are two main models of protection, active protection ex officio and passive protection by application. Under active protection, the rights holder is notified in writing when Customs determines that imported or exported goods are suspected of infringing filed intellectual property rights. If the rights holder confirms the infringement, further protection measures are taken. In passive protection, the rights holder applies to customs authorities for the seizure of the suspected infringing goods if it determines that these goods are to be imported or exported.
European companies engaged in international trade should register their trademarks with China Customs and register the ownership and exercise of rights, the status of goods, and the import and export of known infringing goods with General Administration of Customs through the Customs Information System. Only then can China Customs proactively protect rights in import and export supervision. IPR customs protection records can be valid for up to 20 years. In addition, the right holder should carefully maintain the subsequent records and keep the information about the legal users of its trademark up to date. This is the only way to prevent the goods of a legitimate user from being seized inadvertently.