New Zealand Government increases anti-counterfeiting powers

Saturday 8th October 2011

Counterfeiting is a serious problem in most countries around the world, New Zealand included.  It doesn’t just happen in relation to luxury goods but also in relation to goods which can affect health and safety such as medicines, food and electrical goods. 

Up until today, counterfeiting could only be tackled by way of civil action by trade mark or copyright owners, or by the Police.  Police are under-resourced in this area, and despite criminal provisions being introduced into the Trade Marks and Copyright Acts so that Police could prosecute people who import and sell counterfeits, there have been relatively few prosecutions.

The Trade Marks (International Treaties and Enforcement) Amendment Act came into force on 7 October 2011.  The Amendment Act gives the National Enforcement Unit and the New Zealand Customs Service additional powers which previously resided only with the Police.

Both the National Enforcement Unit and the New Zealand Customs Service now have the ability to execute warrants and to prosecute offenders in relation to counterfeiting.  The Amendment Act also provides the ability for the National Enforcement Unit to undertake search and seizure of counterfeits without a search warrant.  Customs will also have the ability to non-warranted powers to seize counterfeits when counterfeits come within the control of Customs at the border. 

It will also be an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months or a fine of up to $10,000 for an individual, or a fine of up to $50,000 for a body corporate, to deliberately withhold information requested by Customs or to refuse to be interviewed.

The National Enforcement Unit and the New Zealand Customs Service will focus on importers of commercial quantities of counterfeit goods, recidivist offenders and cases where there is a serious question of community health and safety. 

Civil actions can still be brought and the Government is encouraging trade mark and copyright owners to protect their rights.

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