November 17, 2016
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Russian Federal Customs Service (FCS) and this was the theme at this year’s XVII International Customs Exhibition held in Moscow in late October.
The annual event brings together representatives from all of Russia’s regional customs offices as well as those from the surrounding regions such as Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, Baltic States, Finland and China, as well representatives from the World Customs Organization.
The event is convened so that customs officials may get together and discuss current issues. However, private participants are also welcome and this year we saw representatives from the airline and automobile industries, spirits and beverage companies, luxury brands, oil and gas equipment producers and refinery companies.
Gowling WLG staffed an information booth where it represented the interests of those brand owners who had subscribed to the service and pre-arranged meetings were held with customs officials. There were also several drop by meetings with officials who came by the networking booth.
Minister of Finance, Mr. Siluanov, and Mr. Bulavin, Head of the Russian Federal Customs Service, officially opened the event. In his opening speech, Mr. Siluanov emphasized the dual role of the Customs Service to block illegal counterfeits and to collect customs duties. The press release is available here.
Channel One Russia covered the event on the evening news with President Putin expressing his congratulations.
The following points arising from the meeting should be of particular interest to brand owners:
- Parallel importation - Customs officials confirmed that they do not have jurisdiction to take administrative action against parallel importers. However, they will suspend trans-border shipments for up to 10 days in order to determine if the goods are counterfeit. In this period the brand owner has an opportunity to bring a civil action for trademark infringement relating to the parallel importation, which is illegal under the Civil Code;
- 3D trademarks – there was a question as to whether the FCS has ever suspended entry of counterfeit goods based on a 3D registration. The FCS advised that 3D marks are frequently recorded with Customs but to their knowledge no seizures have ever been made;
- “Trivial” cases – as brand owners know, recordals at customs often generate inquiries about shipments in trivial numbers for example, three T-shirts, two cell phones, etc. The FCS emphasized that while these shipments are small, they are still counterfeit and imports may be part of a much bigger endeavor in a neighboring country. To avoid the receipt of these notifications, brand owners may file a clarification with the FCS as to when the brand owner should be contacted; and
- BAZIS (“Basis”), the new brand protection association – this new group was recently founded by former customs officers in cooperation with the FCS. The first BAZIS President is Oksana M. Kuzmenko working in Moscow. The association sets out to represent the interests of brand owners, licensees, importers and distributors with a view to improving cooperation and collaboration with customs and police and to creating an open forum to discuss acute issues and concerns.
BAZIS held its first session in Sochi in August and just last week held another in Vladivostok. Watch for our report in a later release. The next brand-protection seminar is planned for the Northwestern customs points in St. Petersburg on Nov. 30, 2016.
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