The customs surveillance service in Italy and in the EU was set up under EU Regulation no. 1383/03. Its purpose is to counter the spread of counterfeiting by boosting border checks.

The Italian Customs Agency has set up a multimedia databank (FALSTAFF) which is populated, directly and by telematic means, by requests for protection submitted by holders of intellectual property titles.

EU law, in addition to specifying how authorities can intervene in the event of goods being suspected of violating intellectual property rights (marks, patents, models etc.), has introduced the ability, for the holders of these rights, to submit a request for preventive protection measures. In 2009 (official figures for 2010 have not yet been released) there were 1,124 requests, an increase of 25.59% over 2008.

The customs intervention request – which, depending on whether the rights are national or EU-wide, can be made at national or EU level – must contain a copy of the certificates of registration or of concession of the patent rights for which protection is requested, and can be accompanied by all information and documentation that may be useful to help the authorities distinguish authentic goods from counterfeits: catalogues, photographs of products, labels, origin, list of persons legally permitted to use the right, etc.

The request is valid for one year, can be renewed annually, and the maximum duration is linked to the validity of the underlying rights.

In practical terms, the customs intervention request bolsters the armoury of the fight against counterfeiting, hinders the spread of counterfeit goods in Italy and the EU, and provides for a temporary suspension of customs clearance of the suspect goods in order to enable the holder of the right to verify them and, if they are bogus, to take action against the counterfeiter.

The figures for 2009 should emphasise the program’s effectiveness: there were 3,147 seizures (compared with 2,687 in 2008) which involved 12,955,023 products (compared with 9,006,252 in 2008), of which 2,752,036 (21.24%) were from the clothing and personal accessories sector.

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