Customs control – an important weapon in brand protection
As we know, registering a trademark is crucial to protecting your brand in a particular territory. But, trademark registration is just the beginning. It is a constant task for every business to develop and protect is branding and reputation, and to take measures against actions, which can damage its branding. Your trademark makes available a number of weapons you can use to defend your business against infringers. In this article, we will take a closer look at one of them – customs control. In Bulgaria, when you register your brand as a trademark (Bulgarian, EUTM or corresponding international designation), you get the right to demand of the Bulgarian and/or European customs authorities to monitor the borders for counterfeit goods. When such goods are identified at the border, they can be arrested and destroyed. This can be extremely useful for your business, as the customs authorities will automatically work for the protection of your business and your market share. The counterfeit products are arrested before they can even enter the country, reach the consumer and damage your revenue and reputation. At the same time, the customs authorities will inform you of the identity of the importer and seller, which allows you to monitor these parties, investigate and prevent other infringements, and if necessary, to sue. To take advantage of customs control, an application must be submitted to the Bulgarian Customs agency. The application can be approved for a period of up to one year, after which it will need to be renewed. Following approval, customs authorities will arrest goods suspected of infringing your rights. In the course of the customs procedure, you will be notified and will be able to request for the goods to be destroyed. It is important to act quickly, as deadlines in this process are quite short. You only have 10 working days (or 3 working days, when it comes to perishable goods) to make the request for destruction, otherwise, the goods will be released. If the importer opposes your request, the situation gets more complicated. Court proceedings will need to be initiated to ascertain the infringement. If you succeed in court, the goods will be destroyed. In order to most effectively navigate the procedure in the customs and in court, it’s best to authorise a professional representative. The arrest and destruction of goods at the border can be an individual measure. However, it’s most effective when used as part of a complex trademark enforcement strategy, in combination with other actions such as robust monitoring, administrative proceedings before the Patent Office, and infringement lawsuits. All depends on the circumstances and your desired approach. This is an overview of the customs enforcement regime as regards to trademarks in Bulgaria. Every individual situation requires its own in-depth analysis. As such, it’s best to consult an Intellectual Property attorney, who can assist you with making the right decisions, and potentially represent you before the customs and other authorities. Contact Us for expert advice in the field of trademarks and customs control in Bulgaria, the EU and Ukraine.