Africa has seen a vast increase in investment and growth over the past 50+ years and, with this growing investment, is increasingly being targeted as a market for counterfeit goods and merchandise. While the demand is growing for branded goods, and the instances of infringing and counterfeit goods are on the increase, the various Intellectual Property Rights protection measures available to brand holders differ from country to country, remain largely inadequate in most African countries and vary from region to region. As a result, a “one size fits all” anti-counterfeiting strategy cannot be easily applied or adopted.
Furthermore, the market structure in Africa differs substantially from first world markets, such as Europe and America, and the best practices developed and applied in these territories cannot necessarily be adopted and applied in Africa with the same results and consequences.
We know this and because of our experience and understanding of what is needed to successfully protect and assist our clients, our anti-counterfeiting team are leaders in establishing and managing effective anti-counterfeiting strategies with an emphasis on the movement of goods into these areas.
Our approach to counterfeit goods is holistic. We consider both traditional and non-traditional enforcement measures in order to enhance the effectiveness of our client’s anti-counterfeiting strategies. We work with a network of agents and investigators to establish and maximise our African footprint and maintain our ability to assist clients in key regions.
We understand the need to build relations, skills and expertise of customs, government officials and other key stakeholders involved in anti-counterfeiting enforcement measures in Africa.
We assist with Customs brand registrations and Customs actions in Africa (formal and informal), as well as market investigations, actions, and resulting criminal and civil litigation resulting from dealing in counterfeit goods.
Customs brand registrations
For Customs to detain and seize counterfeit goods under the provisions of section 15 of the Counterfeit Goods Act, brand holders are required to submit an application for registration of the brands with the Department of Customs and Excise.
The application sets out information such as the brand holder’s intellectual property rights, details of the appointed agents/attorneys, the required indemnity and power of attorney, and any further information required by Customs.
We draft and lodge these applications with Customs ensuring that all requirements are met for Customs to grant approval. We also assist with the renewal of applications as required by Customs.
As an initial step, we highly recommend that all brands are registered with Customs in order to act in respect of any counterfeit goods at the borders.
Although it is not possible to formally register your brands with all Customs offices in Africa, we assist in territories which provide formal or informal brand registration procedures.
We assist in obtaining customs support in anti-counterfeiting strategies in Africa.
Seizure of counterfeit goods and related proceedings
Where counterfeit goods are encountered in the market or at Customs control points, we draw these goods to the attention of the trade mark or copyright holder. We also prepare and lodge the required complaint and documentation to secure the detention and seizure of counterfeit goods preventing these from entering the market place.
Our objective and aim is to secure the ultimate and timely destruction of these goods, and to obtain information on source, supply and infringers for follow up actions.
We ensure that the seizure of goods is lawful and conducted in line with the provisions of the applicable legislation and procedures, both in the market place and at borders.
The seized counterfeit goods are then stored and secured in a designated counterfeit goods warehouse (where applicable), pending the finalisation of the criminal or civil proceedings against the suspect or importer.
We prepare the case together with the Police Services, specialised counterfeit inspector units and the Public Prosecutors. This ensures that prescribed time limits are complied with and the required evidence is collated for successful prosecution.
Awareness & training
Training is important to us. We are actively involved in the training of customs, government officials and stakeholders appointed in policing of counterfeit goods, as to the relevant legislative provisions applicable to counterfeit goods, and in the upliftment of skills in the identification of counterfeit products.
We conduct training programmes at regular intervals throughout South Africa, creating awareness of our clients’ products that may be counterfeited and the aspects distinguishing them from originals.
We have established relations with counterfeit-specialist private investigators in South Africa and key regions in Africa and are successful in locating the source and supply of counterfeiting operations locally and internationally. We also conduct regular investigations to locate suspects dealing in counterfeit goods and ensure that the appropriate action is taken against them.
Anti-counterfeiting & the Internet
We monitor services and actions to detect Internet counterfeiting and distribution of counterfeit goods through social networking channels in South Africa and key African markets.