Five counterfeit hotspots in Belarus that brand owners must be aware of

14 May 2020

This article was originally published by World Trademark Review. It has been republished with permission and is part of a series of articles on WTR.

In the latest installment in our regular series on marketplaces around the world that are reportedly notorious for being counterfeit havens, we head to the nation of Belarus.

Situated in the heart of eastern Europe, Belarus is a landlocked country bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Due to its proximity, it has become a "targeted transit country for crime groups smuggling illicit merchandise between Asian and European markets", according to Interpol. For that reason, the governments of China and Belarus recently teamed up in an effort to tackle the international trade in counterfeit goods. The move is designed to work within the framework of the Belt and Road initiative, and the hope is it will help quell the issue of fakes entering and leaving Belarus.

With that in mind, we reached out to Sergey Meleshko, anticounterfeiting specialist at Gowling WLG Russia/CIS, who shared the most effective way for brands to tackle fake goods in Belarus, as well as revealing some of the most notorious markets that should be on enforcement radars.

In a nutshell, what should a rights holder know about enforcing against counterfeit goods in Belarus?

Counterfeit goods found in Belarus are mainly manufactured and imported from outside of the country. Therefore, the most effective anti-counterfeiting measures are those taken to stop counterfeit goods from entering the country at the border.

Belarus is a civil code country, and the relevant legislation against counterfeiting provides for criminal, administrative, and civil liability. Furthermore, Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Customs Union whose laws also provide mechanisms for preventing the illegal entry of counterfeit goods in the Eurasian Union. To put in motion regular routine customs inspections, a rights holder may apply to record its rights on the Belarus customs IP register. These rights can be registered trademarks, objects of copyright and neighboring rights or recognised geographic designations.

When a registered IP right is recorded with customs, they will monitor the importation of goods that bear or include that IP right. If a customs inspection reveals that goods bear a registered trademark, or something similar, then the goods are detained for 10 days and the rights holder is informed of the situation. Both Belarus and Eurasian legislation prohibit parallel importation. If the seized goods turn out to be genuine but unauthorised parallel imports, then they cannot be destroyed. In that case, the seized genuine goods become state property.

To start the enforcement process, once the relevant IP rights have been recorded with customs and contraband goods have been identified, the enforcement process begins with an application to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus or to the local police at the place of infringement detection. On average, the duration of administrative proceedings is 2-2.5 months and criminal proceedings can last up to several years.

Does landlord liability exist in Belarus?

A landlord can only be held liable for complicity if it is proved that the landlord knew about the illegal activity of the tenant and has not taken the appropriate measures after being made aware of the situation (alleging possible complicity or collusion).

Are there any local dedicated anti-counterfeiting associations or organisations in Belarus?

The not-for-profit organisation React has over 29 years' experience in fighting counterfeit trade all over the globe, including in Belarus.

Counterfeit hotspots you should know in Belarus:

Most problematic marketplaces in Belarus are found in capital cityMinsk, although there are serious hotspots found across the country.

Zhdanovichi

Location: Found at Ulitsa Timiryazeva 123/2 in Minsk (map link), with an official website, Facebook page and Instagram page currently available.

Counterfeit risk factor: Very high

Fakes widely known to be sold there: Clothing, footwear, accessories, toys, food, and furniture.

Kamaroŭski Rynak

Location: Found at VulicaVieryCharužaj 8 in Minsk (map link).

Counterfeit risk factor: Average

Fakes known to be sold there: Food

Expobel Mall

Location: Found at the intersection of Miroshnichenko Street and MKAD in Minsk (map link). There is also an official website.

Counterfeit risk factor: High

Fakes known to be sold there: Tools, clothing, footwear, accessories, and toys.

Gomel Central Market

Location: Found at Karpovich Street 28 in the city of Gomel (map link). There is also an official website.

Counterfeit risk factor: High

Fakes known to be sold there: Food products.

Smolienski Market

Location: Found at Smolenskaya Ploshchad 18 in the city of Viciebsk (map link).

Counterfeit risk factor: Very high

Fakes known to be sold there: Clothing, footwear, and accessories.


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