One of the first lines of defence in preventing the spread of counterfeit and imitation goods is to stop such goods from entering a country at the borders. Accordingly, IP rights owners should always consider using customs' services as a part of their enforcement programmes in South Korea.

According to a recent report by the Korea Customs Service (KCS),(1) there were a total of 9,853 different seizure cases involving counterfeit goods in 2016. From these seizures, 9,422 cases involved the infringement of trademark rights. There were also 181 cases of copyright infringement and 250 cases involving patent infringement or infringement of other rights.

From the imported counterfeit goods declared to the KCS, if evaluated based on weight criteria, the majority of goods (74.6%) were those sent as general import cargo and express cargo. However, if evaluated based on the number of consignments, the majority of cases (97%) were counterfeit goods sent via air post (5,900 cases) and special courier deliveries (3,646 cases).

In terms of the types of counterfeit good seized in 2016, the most popular items included toys (24.8%), clothing and textiles (14.5%) and handbags (11.9%). The items which had the sharpest increase from the previous year were athletic goods (266% increase), clothing accessories such as belts (243% increase) and home appliances (239% increase).

Mainland China continued to be the origin of most of the counterfeits seized (8,607 cases or 87.4% of total seizures), while Hong Kong came in second (957 cases or 9.7% of total seizures).

The number of seizure cases in 2016 was considerable, and reflects how active Customs is in detaining suspicious goods at the border. In this regard, Customs' efforts not only discourage importers of counterfeit goods, but also help to reduce the quantities of counterfeits circulating in the market.

Meanwhile, as a result of the popularity of proxy purchasing agents and direct imports in South Korea, increasing numbers of counterfeit goods are entering the country via air post or overseas courier services in small quantities. Accordingly, Customs has been actively seizing such goods as well, which is a trend likely to be of great interest to IP rights owners.

In view of the continuing problem of counterfeit goods in South Korea, IP rights owners will find that actively assisting Customs in seizure cases, as well as conducting training sessions for customs officers to educate them about their brands, is a vital and efficient way to fight the counterfeit problem.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.

For further information on this topic please contact Seung Hee Lee or Jason J Lee at Kim & Chang by telephone (+822 3703 1114) or email (shlee7@kimchang.com or jlee4@kimchang.com). The Kim & Chang website can be accessed at www.kimchang.com.

Endnotes

(1) The report can be viewed on the KCS' official website at www.customs.go.kr in both Korean and English.