Dematerialization and centralization of the filing requests for customs Application for Action
To efficiently fight against counterfeiting, the essential tool for any rights holders is the customs Application for Action (AFA).
We have already and at several time underlined the essential role of Customs authorities in the fight against the counterfeit and the necessity for the rights owners to cooperate with them.
This cooperation relies especially on the filing before Customs of an Application for Action which goal is to allow customs files officers to identify, control and block every product likely to infringe an Intellectual Property right.
This request meets specific criteria and for this purpose a form identical to all EU countries accompanied by annexes must be submitted either in electronic format (applicable in certain countries including France) or by sending a mail to the customs services in the country where the application is filed.
In the era of dematerialization, this filing procedure is evolving.
Under the aegis of the European Commission (DG Taxud) and with the collaboration of the EUIPO, since December 12, 2021, every Customs Application for Action shall and will have to in a near future (a priori before end of 2022) be filed and handled through electronical way on the dedicate portal of the EUIPO: IP Enforcement Portal (IPEP).
This portal will be from now on the one and only way of registration, amendment, and renewal of Application for Action for 24 European Countries (including France) and an alternative way for 3 other countries (Germany, Spain and Italy).
In practice, how this will work:
- For rights owners who already have an account on the IPEP Portal, they will be able to access to their customs AFA by using their EORI number (this number will play a main role of identification) *. The customs application will be downloaded from the Customs database COPIS. For information this database is only reachable by European Customs authorities and is totally independent from the IPEP portal.
- For rights owners who do not have an account on the IPEP Portal, the first thing to do is to create this account.
By using the following link: https://www.ipenforcementportal.eu/exchange/new-user.html, they will have to indicate an Intellectual Property Right (Trademark or design) which belong to them. It is essential in this process of identification to specify a valid postal address and above all the name of the person in charge, as a secret password shall be sent to her by postal mail.
Once this code has been received, the rights holders must communicate it by e-mail to the EUIPO at the address email@example.com, by using an individual email address and not a generic one.
Once done, the login and a link to create a password will be sent to the rights owner for the access to their account.
For the representatives of several rights owners (such as Plasseraud IP anti-counterfeiting or other), as soon as the rights owner has designated this representative to the EUIPO in its IPEP account (by depositing the corresponding power of attorney), it will be possible to the latter to access this account but also to consolidate under his own account all the accounts of the rights owners he represents based on the codes received by the said owners and the powers of representation.
The totality of current Customs application of action (European or National) will be available on the portal through the EORI number and several tutorials are currently online to help rights owners and their representatives in their different steps.
The new Application for Action done through IPEP portal must be systematically approved by the Customs authority of the country in which the rights owner or its representative is located, before being put online on COPIS.
Nowadays, not all the features are available yet and it is still possible to use a paper form to proceed to a new registration of a customs application.
Last point concerning France, customs application under the French Intellectual Property code which could come with the European Customs application when appropriate, will still be sent by email to the Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects (DGDDI) : firstname.lastname@example.org and, a priori shall not be visible on the IPEP portal.
It is important to note that notifications of customs detentions will always be sent by email to the rights owners, or their representative indicated in the request for action. However, it is not impossible that in the long term all exchanges will be done via the portal.
To conclude, there will be most probably an adjustment period, but the rights owner or its representative will have the possibility to directly manage its application without going through Customs authority and this will generate also less paperwork.
Once again, we underline the importance to have an EORI number because it will be the key to the management of the customs application on the IPEP portal.
Plasseraud IP Anti-counterfeiting stands at your disposal for any further information.