Amendment 260/2002 to the Law on Measures Concerning the Import, Export and Re-export of Goods Violating Certain Intellectual Property Rights (191/1999) affords the owners of IP rights better protection against imports of counterfeit goods.

Previously, customs authorities were not authorized to make a final determination as to whether suspected goods were actually counterfeit (the Czech courts held exclusive jurisdiction in such matters). Upon seizing suspected counterfeit goods, the customs authorities were obliged to notify the owner whose rights were suspected of being infringed, but could not name the importer or the intended recipient. Thus owners were unable to obtain a declaratory judgment as to whether the goods were counterfeit, as they were unable to cite the defendant. Owners had to file a criminal complaint alleging infringement of trademark and copyright laws before the names of the parties in question would be disclosed, and they could then file a petition for a declaratory judgment.

Pursuant to the amended law, which took effect on September 1 2002, customs authorities must notify owners of the name and address of the importer of the suspected goods, and measures must be taken to prevent the release of the seized goods. In addition, security deposits are set at Kr100,000 and a flat fee of Kr1,500 is payable for the administrative costs involved in implementing the provisions of the act. In order to achieve uniformity in the interpretation and implementation of the act, a central customs office is to be established to handle owners' applications for information.

Moreover, customs authorities may now determine whether the seized goods are counterfeit and may order goods to be destroyed without the need for a court order (but only in undisputed cases, where the owner submits a declaration to the customs authorities stating that the seized goods are counterfeit and details the infringement).

While the amended law is welcome, questions remain as to whether it allows an owner to request an inspection of specific future import shipments, and whether the provisions apply only when counterfeit goods are discovered by customs authorities upon routine inspection.

For further information on this topic please contact Karel Cermák at Cermák Horejš Myslil by telephone (+420 2 9616 7401) or by fax (+420 2 2494 6724) or by email ([email protected]).