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Sharing your information with enforcers in the IP Enforcement Portal - Application for Action or Alert?

05 February 2020

An EU Council regulation (Regulation (EU) No 608/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights and repealing Council Regulation ((EC) No 1383/2003) provides procedural rules for customs authorities to enforce IPR for goods liable to customs supervision or customs control, including the procedures regarding AFAs.

As a rights holder, you should protect and defend your rights. One way of doing this is by asking customs to detain goods found to be suspected of infringing your intellectual property rights (IPR). To do this, you need to lodge an Application for Action (AFA) requesting customs to take action. What is more, in the IP Enforcement Portal, you can also send alerts to customs and police authorities, to alert them about potential infringements, trends or online infringements. Both features have a common goal: to help rights holders share valuable information with enforcement authorities. However, their nature, scope and characteristics are different.

The Application for Action (AFA)

An EU Council regulation (Regulation (EU) No 608/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights and repealing Council Regulation ((EC) No 1383/2003) provides procedural rules for customs authorities to enforce IPR for goods liable to customs supervision or customs control, including the procedures regarding AFAs.

According to these regulations, an AFA must be submitted to a competent customs department designated by the Member State. The AFA form, established by the Commission, specifies the information that must be provided by the rights holder to the customs authorities. As a user of the IP Enforcement Portal, you can generate your AFA as a PDF document, identical to the abovementioned standard form, and send it electronically to the EU customs. As per Regulation No 608/2013 on the customs enforcement of IPR, the customs authority of the issuing country has 30 working days from receipt of the application to notify the rights holder of its decision. You can find detailed instructions on how to fill in the AFA in the portal in the step-by-step user guide, a presentation with the 10 key considerations when filing an AFA in the IP Enforcement Portal and a webinar. Further details can be found in the Manual for Applications for Action provided by the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union.

What are the advantages of filing an AFA in the IP Enforcement Portal?

The IP Enforcement Portal helps you to prepare customs AFAs in four steps, using the IPR and product information previously entered in the database. The portal only allows the submission of the AFA once all the mandatory fields (as defined by the Customs Regulation (EU) No 608/2013) are completed. If mandatory information is missing when generating an AFA, the tool automatically displays a link to the corresponding field in the system to prompt completion of the missing information, thus helping the user through the process.

The main advantage is that the information contained in an AFA filed through the IP Enforcement Portal arrives in the customs’ COPIS database in a structured manner (rather than in the form of attachments), it is searchable and can easily be fed into the different risk analysis systems used by customs. Independently of the language in which the rights holder or his or her representative drafts the AFA, the document is generated in all the languages of the Member States where the AFA will be applicable and sent to customs in the language of the customs receiving it.

The Alerts

As a user of the IP Enforcement Portal, you have the possibility to send alerts to customs and police authorities. With this feature, you can alert the relevant authorities — customs, police or both— about potential infringements, trends or online infringements you have identified. The authorities will then be able to make use of this information and include it in their risk analysis and profiling.

This feature is particularly interesting for internal market forces. Though customs receive extensive information from the rights holders in the Applications for Action (AFA), the police are not a party to this information. The alerts created through the IP Enforcement Portal can contain the same information on products, IPRs and contact information that can be found in an AFA.

What types of alerts are there?

In the portal, you can add two types of alerts: an alert about a potential infringement or trend and an alert about online infringement. You can send an alert about a potential infringement or trend when, for example, you have information about a consignment on its way to Europe that has not yet crossed the European border and the information could be valuable for helping customs or other border forces to stop it crossing the border; or when you have information about goods already in Europe and the information could be valuable for helping enforcement authorities to stop the goods being sold within the internal market; or when you have information from previous cases where new trends have appeared; or if you want to provide internal market forces with the same information that is included in the AFAs for customs.

Alternatively, an alert about an online infringement can be used when you have information about counterfeit goods being sold or promoted online, and the information could be valuable to customs or other border forces that are trying to stop goods infringing your intellectual property rights.

Importantly, you can provide additional information to an alert you have already sent by adding comments or attaching images and/or documents. You are also notified when the relevant authority has viewed your alert (the alert changes status). Furthermore, enforcers can reply directly to the alerts you send them, thus enabling you to interact with them on specific cases. You can find detailed information on how to fill in both types of alerts in the portal.

Both features of the portal are designed to facilitate the timely and secure exchange of information on your products, contact points and IPRs with the relevant enforcement authorities, to lower the language barriers as much as possible and to support you when defending your rights in the fight against counterfeiting.

The IP Enforcement Portal team is always happy to assist you in making the most of your account in the portal; filling out the relevant product information, filing an Application for Action or sending an alert. Don’t hesitate to contact us at ipenforcementportal@euipo.europa.eu.