|Write-Up: Breakfast Seminar: The challenge of Transshipment in IPR Protection|
European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong: Transshipment and IPR Protection
By Ms. Annie Wang, D’Evénitif
Joined hands with the Hong Kong Customs, the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (ECC) and its European Brand Protection Business Council facilitated the IP industry’s exchange of views through a joint seminar organized on 2nd June with the support of the EU-funded Information Business Programme.
The seminar successfully gathered a number of prominent industry experts at the Customs Headquarters Building as speakers, panelists and participants. Invited speakers include Mr. Stanislas Barro, Senior Brand Protection Manager, Kering Asia Pacific Limited; Mr. Alan Chiu, Partner, Hogan Lovells LLP; Mr. Eben Roberts, Deputy Attaché, DHS/ICE Homeland Security Investigations for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and Mr. Y.P. Wong, Group Head, (Intellectual Property Investigation (Operations)), Hong Kong Customs. The participation of the IP professionals specializing in various industries ranging from luxury goods, computer software, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, express cargo couriers, transportation and education further enhanced the information exchange at the seminar.
Upon kick-starting the discussions, Mr. Albert Ho, Assistant Commissioner (Intelligence and Investigation) of the Hong Kong Customs addressed the major challenges arising from the unique positioning of Hong Kong as an international shipping and logistic hub. For example, the strengthening of the trade ties between China and Europe has inevitably facilitated the smuggling of counterfeit goods through Hong Kong as well as other hubs; while e-commerce provided criminals with new means to ship counterfeited products in smaller quantities and directly to individual customers
In face of the ever-changing patterns in the counterfeiting activities and transshipment, he encouraged the industries to incorporate the Hong Kong Customs in the IPR protection strategy. For instance, the Hong Kong Customs signed MoUs with five major transnational express courier operators respectively in 2015 following the success of the special partnership arrangements established for years them. This has contributed to a 1300% increase in the seizure of parcels containing IPR infringed goods in 2013. Extensive intelligence networking with the Mainland and overseas counterparts also enables the Hong Kong Customs to act as an international coordination and interception point in cracking down illegal transshipment of IPR infringed goods.
Working closely with the Hong Kong Customs, Mr. Roberts added that despite the various factors that have made Hong Kong an attractive conduit for transshipment of China-made goods, including contraband, these factors along with the proactive enforcement posture of the Hong Kong Customs, also make Hong Kong an ideal early-interdiction point, affording law enforcement the opportunity to interdict and investigate customs violations, like counterfeits, earlier in the supply chain.
Looking deeper into the collaborative approach between the public and private as well as the private and private sectors, not only did Mr. Barro emphasize the importance of joining their task force in the whole transshipment chain, but also the need to put together resources in the investigating capabilities which involves the shipping industry as a one of the key components. The practical enforcement of the legal arena against illegal transshipment of individual countries with regard to the constrains and the political will is yet another issue to tackle.
Although the Hong Kong Customs is not empowered to seized goods in transit by vessel or aircraft under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) in Hong Kong, international cooperation has proven to be a success in tackling the counterfeits in transit overseas. In September 2014, the Australian Customs authorities made a seizure of 6600 fashion items (total worth of 3 million HKD) in one operation which resulted from an information exchange with the Hong Kong Customs. Mr. Wong presented further updates that on 27th April, an action plan was put in place between the EU and the Hong Kong Customs which facilitated the exchange of information on IPR cases and the conduction of joint analysis on general risks and trends with the EU member states. The action plan would be revised by both sides in March 2016.
With Hong Kong being a focal logistic hub in the region exploited by IP criminal syndicates, the battle against IP infringement and transshipment of counterfeit goods remains uphill. Yet, one more effective means to halt the international contraband shipment is through the global partnership in this battle between the customs authorities, the brand owners, the shipping and cargo operators, express cargo couriers as well as the individuals as consumers to report counterfeited products in the market.
Please visit our Facebook page for more photos of the event.