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Counterfeiters Know No Boundaries

13 Nov 2017

Over the weekend the nation paused on the 99th anniversary of the guns of the First World War falling silent on 11 November 1918 in the annual act of remembrance to commemorate and reflect on the bravery of the men and women who fought and sacrificed their lives in the two World Wars and other conflicts to secure and protect our freedom.

In the UK and many other Commonwealth countries the red poppy is seen and used as  a symbol of remembrance.  Its origins date back to First World War Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who was moved by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to compose the famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.

Upon its foundation in 1921 the red poppy became the symbol of the Royal British Legion, a charity providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants.

Every year, in the weeks running up to Remembrance Sunday (the Sunday closest to 11 November), the Royal British Legion through its Haig Fund/Poppy Appeal raises funds for its charitable purposes through the sale of artificial red remembrance poppies and poppy accessories including badges and brooches in return for a donation to the Legion.  In Scotland this is carried out through its sister charity which now operates under the name Poppyscotland.

A two-petal poppy is primarily used in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  This is a registered trade mark owned by the Royal British Legion.  In Scotland, a four-petal poppy is predominantly used and this is a registered trade mark owned by Poppyscotland.

Counterfeit Poppies Seized

It has been reported that on 8 November UK Border Force officers from the mobile International Trade Team based at Tilbury Docks attended a freight depot to examine an air freight consignment from China.

Inspecting the shipment, which was destined for an address in the Manchester area, officers discovered packages containing poppy branded goods including 1,212 scarves, 5,400 badges and 1,200 key rings estimated to be worth £150,000. The officers seized the goods and contacted the Royal British Legion.  The goods, some of which were also branded with the words ‘Lest we Forget’, were confirmed to have infringed the Royal British Legion’s ‘two-petal poppy’ trade mark.

Amongst the consignment, officers also discovered 600 four-petal brooches which were confirmed to infringe Poppyscotland’s ‘four-petal’ trade mark.

In a press release issued by the UK Home Office Mark Kennedy, the UK Border Force Acting Deputy Director, said:

“Had these fake goods entered the market, they could have cheated thousands of pounds from unsuspecting members of the public and diverted vital funds away from the Royal British Legion.

My officers work around the clock at ports, airports and mail sorting centres identifying and seizing counterfeit goods and their diligence has proved vital here.

All counterfeits cheat honest traders and we are determined to crack down on this type of criminality. Border Force works closely with partner law enforcement agencies to ensure co-ordinated action against those who attempt to import fake goods.”

Customs Watch Applications

The case is a salient reminder that counterfeiters in the 21st Century know no boundaries and all types of rights holders are at risk from them.  Means to address counterfeits and infringing goods arriving at the border through UK Customs are, however, available as evidenced by this success for the Royal British Legion.

Rights-holders can make an application to UK Customs based on their UK and/or EU wide rights including but not limited to registered trade marks, design rights, patents and copyright.

Once items are seized, UK Customs and Border Force officials will notify the rights-holder and work with them to establish whether or not goods are genuine. If they are confirmed as fake, the goods will be destroyed if the importer consents positively or through its silence to their abandonment.  If it does not then the rights-holder can prevent their release by commencing infringement proceedings in order for the court to determine whether or not the goods infringe.

DMH Stallard has a team of intellectual property specialists who can advise and assist on Customs Applications and the range of IP enforcement options available for clients. 

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