Following the 6th annual Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy, held in France in February 2011, it has become increasingly obvious that counterfeiting has become a worldwide pandemic. The statistics released during the congress confirmed that counterfeiting and piracy is no longer limited to articles of clothing, electronics and accessories but has increasingly shifted into the field of pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs, which pose a greater risk as it relates to the safety and well being of the unsuspecting public.

It is of paramount importance that every effort is made to manage and stop the trade in counterfeit goods, in particular, in the country of origin of those goods. The cooperation of law enforcement authorities in the various countries including the country of manufacture of the counterfeit goods; any transit countries and the country of final destination is vital. The role of the brand owners must not be underestimated. Essentially, it is a public/private partnership that must be developed. This is where the World Customs Organization plays a crucial role.

In June 2010, at its annual council meeting, The World Customs Organization (WCO) introduced a new strategy to the World in the form of the Interface Public Members (IPM). This system is a database that enables IP right owners to give Customs direct access to information that would assist them in the identification and seizure of counterfeit goods and is an invaluable tool for training officials with brand identification skills.

IP right owners must continue to regularly update the IPM system with new information, images and identification tools in order to grow the database. This in turn will enable Customs officials to receive more effective training. As IPM spreads all over the world the strangle hold on counterfeiters will become tighter and would hopefully result in effective enforcement.

Hopefully, the IPM system will be implemented in South Africa sooner rather than later.

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