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Information for private individuals - Counterfeit Goods

Published on February 22, 2008

Imports into and exports out of France of counterfeit goods violating trademarks are offenses under French general Criminal Law and such goods are deemed to be "prohibited" under French Customs Law.

The introduction of such goods in France - even under cover of a customs international transit procedure - or their shipment out of the country are therefore subject to specific penalties under the Customs code, distinct and additional to those provided for under general Criminal Law.

Since the act of importing or exporting counterfeit trademark goods is an offense under the IPR code and a separate one under the Customs code, violators are not in a position to claim double jeopardy. They are liable to customs penalties, as well as to penalties provided for under general Criminal Law.

IPR violations (trade- or servicemarks, copyrights, patents, industrial designs, etc...) attract, under French general Criminal Law, a sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million francs. Those penalties are doubled in the case of a repeated offense or where the violator is or has been related to the injured IPR holder.

As far as imports or exports of counterfeit trademark goods are concerned, they are also offenses under Customs Law and attract the following additional sentences:

- up to three years’ imprisonment;
- forfeiture of the counterfeit goods, as well as of the involved conveyances (vehicle, vessel or aircraf);
- a fine at least equal to the value of the goods, but not exceeding twice that value.

With respect to the importation or exportation of goods violating copyright laws or copying protected industrial designs, Customs officers who come across articles which they suspect to be pirated copyrighted goods or to be violating industrial design laws, may detain those goods for a period of up to ten days to allow the right holder to initiate criminal proceedings or proceedings in tort. When instituting proceedings, the right holder is required to post a security to pay compensation to the owner, importer or consignee if no IPR infringement is subsequently established in court.

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