IPR, Health and Safety Programme

The impact of counterfeiting and piracy on the global economy is becoming more severe every year. The role of Customs in combating counterfeiting is very important to prevent unfair competition and guarantee equal market access to all business actors. Moreover, Customs carries out an essential function in the fiscal area, but as import duties fall its mission of protecting society and ensuring compliance with trade rules is assuming increasing significance. Many counterfeit products expose the public to serious health and safety risks. According to the Illicit Trade Report, there have been numerous cases of pharmaceutical products and prescription medicines manufactured from poisonous or inferior constituents or containing no active ingredients, auto parts and toys which do not meet safety standards, aircraft parts assembled from counterfeit spare parts, food, shampoo and household cleaning products containing dangerous ingredients, etc. These counterfeit products may lead to anything from light injuries to, in the worst case scenario, lethal consequences.

The IPR, Health and Safety Programme starts from the premise that nothing can be achieved in isolation. Therefore, the WCO is active in delivering extensive capacity building actions, coordinating the efforts of its Members and related international organizations, working with the private sector and developing various enforcement tools.

The capacity building segment includes the accreditation of experts trained by the WCO, the organization of regional and national seminars for operational Customs officers, and conducting diagnostic missions that include a review of national legislation, the analysis of country-specific risks, engaging rights-holders and competent national authorities, etc.

Coordinating the efforts of all stakeholders through simultaneous enhanced border controls is a key element of the Programme. Multiple objectives can be achieved through such operations, including the sharing of information in real time among different countries, providing Customs officers with the latest tools and instruments for more efficient risk analysis and targeting, enhancing cooperation with rights-holders, and learning more about the phenomenon of counterfeiting flows as well as concealment methods.

Partnership with the private sector plays an important role as well. Customs is able to enhance the effectiveness of its operations by having real-time access to the commercial data and strategic information needed to detect counterfeit goods. For their part, legitimate businesses benefit enormously from working in partnership with a Customs administration which, through having a greater awareness of the needs of business, is in a better position to facilitate legitimate trade.

Finally, where international co-operation is concerned the WCO and its Members work closely with such organizations as GS1, Union des Fabricants (UNIFAB), Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI), Asociación Nacional para la Defensa de la Marca (ANDEMA), Les Entreprises du Médicament (LEEM), Customs Intellectual Property Information Center (CIPIC), and Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) among others, in order to avoid duplication and ensure that the efforts of all stakeholders come together in pursuit of a collective cause – the fight against counterfeiting and piracy – which lies at the heart of the economic, commercial and social preoccupations of States.

E-learning course