While customs officers have the authority to detain or seize counterfeit goods under the Customs Act 1969 – the primary legislation in Pakistan relating to customs – such authority has not been fully enforced due to the absence of stringent legislative procedures. However, the Federal Board of Revenue – a semi-autonomous, supreme federal agency responsible for auditing, enforcing and collecting revenue for the government – has recently taken bold initiatives to curb the trade of counterfeit and smuggled goods.
One such initiative is the establishment of the Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights (Pakistan Customs). This body will primarily focus on the enforcement of Pakistan's IP laws – in particular, the import or export of counterfeit products. It will also be the Federal Board of Revenue's centralised contact office for national and international organisations working for the promotion of IP rights.
During a recent workshop organised by the Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights in May 2015, the director general briefly discussed the salient features of the reporting regime that will be introduced to monitor the import and export of counterfeit products. The most notable feature of this regime appears to be the option to file online complaints with the Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights regarding the import of counterfeit products. These complaints can be filed by the brand owners directly or through their authorised attorneys on a no-fee basis. The regime is not yet operational and no formal rules or guidelines have been prescribed. As a result, the procedural formalities and requirements for the filing of such complaints are not yet clear.
The introduction of this new regime appears to be a big step forward in the protection, promotion and enforcement of IP rights in Pakistan, which if successfully implemented could yield impressive results.
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