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Battling counterfeits through Customs

By Israel Ledesma
Managing Intellectual Property, International Briefings, March 2010
Mexico has been facing a significant problem regarding the sale and distribution of counterfeit products for many years. The Mexican government, with the collaboration of IP rights owners, has taken various enforcement actions against counterfeiters. The most noteworthy of these have been the actions taken at the border to challenge the importation of counterfeits into the Mexican Territory.
Mexican Customs has initiated an unparalleled effort to challenge this problem. According to the official figures rendered by Mexican Customs, during 2009 the anti - counterfeiting actions through border measures increased 300% in comparison with 2008. This is due to the so-called zero tolerance policy implemented by Customs and IP rights owners.
This goal has been achieved through collaboration of the different Federal enforcement agencies involved: Mexican Customs, the Mexican Trademark and Patent Office (IMPI) and the Attorney General ´s Office (PGR). It is important to clarify that IMPI is in charge the prosecution of trade mark, copyright and patent infringements, while PGR prosecutes criminal actions against copyright and trademark felonies.   
Mexican customs is working to close all paths to the importation of counterfeits into Mexico. Consequently, counterfeiters are looking into fresh routes to import illegal products, such as through courier services. Using these services, the importers introduce small products or spare parts in separate shipments, particularly small electronic devices, mobile phones and jewellery. In this context, Mexican Customs is improving its efforts to detect suspicious shipments in courier services, allowing many IP owners to take enforcement actions against these cargoes.
Despite the above, there are many pending issues on the Mexican government´ s agenda, that would help to further the fight against counterfeiters, such as the granting of sufficient authority to Customs on anti-counterfeiting matters. Federal Congress is expected to consider an amendment on this subject in the near future.