European Observatory's IP database starts testing phase

Customs symbolCustoms authorities in the EU have started road-testing an enforcement database designed to help brand owners protect their intellectual property.

The database - run by the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy - is designed to replace paper-based systems that are not interlinked or interoperable between different customs authorities, police and rights holders.

Using the database brand owners upload details about their products to the password protected, web-based database - such as pictures and information about logistics and packaging, for example - which can then be used by customs and enforcement authorities to identify counterfeited goods.

The system - which is free to use - will also offer right holders the possibility of an automatically prefilled "application for customs action" (AFA) form.  Brand owners using the system must have a registered trade mark within the EU, according to the Observatory, which is run by the EU's Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM).

The uploaded information is translated into all official EU languages and held centrally for use by customs officials across all EU member states, although the information will not be shared with other businesses or rights holders.

Rights holders have been uploading information into the database since June and customs officers are now making use of the system in a pilot phase, ahead of its planned official roll-out next year. The ultimate success of the system will depend on how many rights holders sign up to use it, as limited use could result in a poorly populated database of little use to the enforcement authorities.

"We understand from OHIM that the database is still under a pilot phase and will not go live before summer 2014," according to lawfirm King & Wood Mallesons/SJ Berwin.

"However, OHIM is currently seeking the help of rights holders in providing information about their products - both with a view to suggesting improvements and ensuring that the relevant information is available for enforcement authorities - once the database goes live," it added in a statement.

Based on the information made available, it could also allow enforcement authorities to open a "suspicious case" in the database, which offers an online platform on which the enforcement agent and rights holder can liaise on the case.

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