Results obtained by the Customs Agency in the area of consumer protection (year 2007)
The Italian Customs Agency (L´Agenzia delle Dogane) is the competent Italian authority with responsibility for implementing the measures set out in the EU Regulation governing the fight against counterfeiting and, as such, it:
- carries out the duties and functions assigned to it by the legislation covering the circulation of goods and the taxation associated with international trade, in the customs and manufacturing tax sector, ensuring that adequate checks are made, in order to combat illegal operations in both tax and non-tax-related areas;
- operates in close cooperation, on a nationwide basis, with the Guardia di Finanza (the Italian Tax Police Corp) and other Italian police authorities, with other EU Member States and with other EU and international authorities and organisations.
In recent years, the Customs Agency has received considerable praise for the results it has obtained in the fight against counterfeiting and the number of the confiscations it has made have marked it out as one of the most efficient Customs Authorities in the whole of Europe and one of the most committed to combating this phenomenon.
This has been made possible not only by the Agency´s professional standards and the commitment of its personnel, but also by means of the use of a specially designed ICT application created by the Agency and known as FALSTAFF (Fully Automated Logical SysTem Against Forgery & Fraud), consisting of a multimedia database of authentic products.
This project was launched in 2004 and, at the request of holders of intellectual property rights, it gathers together images of and technical specifications for the products it is designed to safeguard, in addition to information about the customs itinerary followed by both genuine and counterfeit goods.
This database, whose information is provided by the rights-holders themselves, allows customs officials to verify, in real time, the characteristics of the genuine product and to compare these with goods that arrive at Customs, in order to be able to carry out the necessary checks and thus defend intellectual property rights.
Customs officials may, as part of their duties, call upon the assistance of trade associations and/or the quality certification bodies for the products under their supervision.
In 2005 the FALSTAFF project received an Honourable Mention in the eEurope Awards, the ´Euro-Oscars´ award for the best E-government initiatives.
The multimedia database is integrated with the AIDA system (Automazione Integrata Dogane e Accise - automated, integrated customs and excise system) that manages all the customs operations. This creates predetermined risk profiles that are kept constantly updated, including with information gathered by FALSTAFF, making it possible to make a preliminary selection of suspicious operations and it then indicates the kind of check to be carried out (documentation check, goods inspections using X-rays or carried out by hand).
Protecting consumers and promoting trade
Consumers must be protected, and the authorities in control of this take both preventative and administrative action, aimed at putting an end to the trade in counterfeit goods, confiscating and destroying these and taking effective and efficient measures to combat illegal activities without placing obstacles in the path of legitimate commerce.
Thanks to the adoption of new legislative instruments, the European Union is able to operate in an ever more efficient manner in this battle, increasing the capacities of Member States to take action against a criminal phenomenon that, in recent years, has assumed major proportions.
The Customs Authorities exercise their powers of intervention, acting in the ways and using the powers set out in Articles 4 and 9 of EC Regulation No. 1383/2003, that allows them to suspend release of, or to detain any suspect merchandise, at the same time, informing the rights-holder.
By now counterfeiting affects every industrial and consumer goods sector: clothing and accessories, toys, watches, footwear, eyewear, cigarettes, audio-video (CDs, videocassettes and DVDs), motor vehicle spare parts, food and medicine products. The OECD estimates that between 7% and 9% of all the goods traded worldwide are counterfeit, and it has calculated that, taking into consideration only counterfeit products that have passed some customs frontier between production and consumption, this market amounts to some 200 billion USD. Other studies indicate that at least 30% of the goods sold over the Internet are counterfeit.
The trade in counterfeit goods, and in general, all merchandise that infringes intellectual property rights, seriously damages manufacturers and traders who obey the law, in addition to property rights-holders, in that it deceives consumers and sometimes exposes them to serious health and safety risks.
- results in economic damage to law-abiding companies, that can be measured in loss of brand image, missed sales, a drop in the yield from their investments in research, innovation and marketing and the legal expenses incurred to protect their intellectual property rights;
- creates unfair competition that may also lead to job losses in the companies that have been damaged;
- leads to losses in revenues for the Treasury as result of the evasion of tax and duties;
- harms workers employed in counterfeiting businesses, in that they are subject to working conditions that deprive them of their rights and legal and contractual safeguards;
- does not respect health and safety standards.
Counterfeit and pirated goods
Council Regulation (EC) No. 1383 of 22/7/2003 provides two definitions.
Counterfeit goods are considered to be:
- goods, including packaging, bearing without authorisation a trademark identical to the trademark validly registered in respect of the same type of goods, or which cannot be distinguished in its essential aspects from such a trademark, and which thereby infringes the trademark-holder's rights;
- any trademark symbol (including a logo, label, sticker, brochure, etc.), even if presented separately;
- packaging materials bearing the trademarks of counterfeit goods, presented separately.
Pirated goods are considered to be:
- goods which are or which contain copies made without the consent of the holder of a copyright or related right or design right, regardless of whether it is registered in national law, or of a person authorised by the right-holder in the country of production.