Customs action: Infringement of trade marks & copyrights

This article explains how HMRC of the UK operate the European Community (EC) legislation on:

  • Counterfeit and pirated goods
  • Patent infringing goods
  • National or Community plant variety rights infringing goods
  • Designations of origin or geographical indications infringing goods
  • Geographical designations infringing goods

and UK legislation on customs action in relation to goods infringing trade marks and copyright.

EC legislation

Council Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003 allows a right-holder to lodge an application with HMRC to prohibit entry into the Community and the export or re-export from the Community, of counterfeit and pirated goods and goods infringing: patents, national or Community plant variety rights, designations of origin or geographical indications and geographical designations.

If you have not made an application, the Regulation also enables HMRC to contact you if they come across suspected infringing goods during the course of their checks. In this case the goods may be detained and you may be invited to lodge an application within three working days. This deadline cannot be extended.

Goods in question

The EC regulations apply to:

Counterfeit Goods

  • Goods, including packaging bearing without authorisation a trade mark which is identical, or cannot be distinguished in its essential aspects from, validly registered UK or EC trade marks for the same type of goods;
  • any symbol (including any logo, label, sticker, brochure, instruction manual or guarantee document bearing a symbol) whether presented separately or not, carrying a trade mark without authorisation; or·
  • packaging materials, presented separately, bearing the trade marks of counterfeit goods.

Pirated Goods

  • which are (or embody) copies made without the consent of the holder of the copyright or right in a performance or design right (whether registered or unregistered), or of a person authorised by the right-holder in the country of production, where the making of those copies would have constituted an infringement of the right in question under UK or EC law.

Patent Infringing Goods

  • infringing a patent under UK law or a supplementary protection certificate (SPC) under EC law.

National or Community Plant Variety rights

  • variety rights provided for by UK or EC law.

Designations of Origin or Geographical Indications

  • of origin or geographical indications provided for by EC or UK law.

Geographical Designations

  • designations provided for by EC law.


  • holder of a trade mark, copyright, right in a performance, design right, patent, supplementary protection certificate, plant variety right, protected designation of origin or protected geographical indication, geographical designation, or any person authorised to use those rights, or an authorised representative.

Grey market goods

  • Goods manufactured with the consent of the right-holder, but marketed without the consent, (ie parallel trade goods); and
  • Goods manufactured or bearing a trade mark under conditions other than those agreed by the right-holder, (ie overruns).

Entry into the Community

  • Placing of goods under customs supervision (eg temporary storage or transhipment) prior to them being assigned a customs approved treatment or use;
  • Declaration of goods for free circulation;
  • Placing of goods under a suspensive procedure (ie external transit, customs warehousing, processing under customs control and temporary importation);
  • Placing of imported goods in a free zone or free warehouse.

The definitions of counterfeit, pirated and patent infringing goods also include moulds or matrices specifically designed or adapted for the manufacture of counterfeit trade marks, goods bearing such trade marks, pirated goods and goods infringing a patent or a supplementary protection certificate.