Apply for protection against infringements of intellectual property rights on imports into and exports out of the UK.
As an intellectual property rights holder, you can help to protect your rights by making an Application for Action. This requests Border Force to detain goods suspected of infringing a range of rights, including:
- trade marks
To make sure your rights are protected, you should make an Application for Action to protect your rights in the:
- UK using your Government Gateway account
- EU by another member state on the Europa website and send it to an EU customs department
You can find out more about EU legislation on customs protection of intellectual property rights on the Europa website.
Who can apply
You can make an Application for Action to protect your rights in the UK if you’re:
- an intellectual property rights holder
- an intellectual property rights management collective body
- formally authorised to both use and start court proceedings to protect the rights
If you already have an Application for Action
If you already have a UK application through the Europa website, you’ll need to extend your application when it expires.
If your rights are already protected by an application made through another EU member state, they will not be protected in the UK. You will need to make a new application to protect your rights in the UK.
The following rights do not exist in the UK:
- international registered trade mark ― designating the EU
- EU trade mark
- international registered design ― designating the EU
- community registered design
- unregistered community design
Protecting geographical indications in Northern Ireland
You must complete the Application for Action form on the EU’s Europa website if you’re a producer, and you want to protect one of the following in Northern Ireland:
- food and agricultural products
- spirit drinks
- aromatised wines
- other geographical indications that have an exclusive intellectual property right by national or Union law, or that are covered in agreements between the EU and other countries
You can find more details and check which geographical indications are covered on the Europa website. You must send applications to protect geographical indications in Northern Ireland to the Intellectual Property (IP) Rights Application for Action (AFA) Approvals team by emailing: email@example.com.
Before you apply
You’ll need to tell us on the form what you want to protect such as the:
- type of right
- expiry date
- description of the right and its use
- technical data like registration number, patent number or Nice class
Attachments sent by email will only be accepted in exceptional cases where you are unable to submit the information on the form itself.
When to apply
Send your application 30 working days before you either:
- want the monitoring period to start
- expect infringing goods to be imported or exported
How to apply
To apply for action to protect your intellectual property rights, you need a Government Gateway user ID and password. If you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you apply.
It’s free to make an Application for Action, but you’re liable for any costs incurred from the moment Border Force detains the suspected goods. This includes administration and goods being:
You’ll also be liable for legal costs and compensation for any loss suffered by the owner of the goods if:
- you or a court confirm the goods do not infringe your rights
- the action is discontinued because of an error on your part
After you’ve applied
HMRC will review your application and contact you if we need more information. Normally, we’ll write to you within 30 working days from receipt of your application to let you know it’s been granted. It will be valid for one year from the decision to grant your application.
Sending additional information
You can send more information to help Border Force:
- identify genuine or counterfeit goods, such as markings, barcodes and images
- assess risk — for example, authorised distributors and routes
Send the files to the AFA Approvals team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell them your submission reference, given to you on the confirmation page of your application.
How Border Force uses your Application for Action
If Border Force detect suspect goods at the border they’ll contact you to check whether you think the goods are genuine.
You’ll have to confirm whether you think the goods infringe your rights and if you agree to their destruction.
If the goods are perishable, such as food that will deteriorate, you’ll need to reply within 3 working days.
If the goods are non-perishable, you’ll have 10 working days to reply and you can request an extension of up to 10 more working days to start court proceedings.
Border Force will also:
- tell the importer or owner of the goods that their goods have been detained and give them either 3 or 10 working days to agree or object to the goods being destroyed
- give both the rights holder and the importer the opportunity to inspect the goods
Infringement of rights without an Application for Action
Border Force sometimes finds goods that may infringe intellectual property rights when there’s no Application for Action.
If they think you’re the rights holder for the goods, they’ll ask what action you want to take. If you confirm the goods infringe your intellectual property rights, Border Force will detain them and tell the importer within one working day. If Border Force cannot identify the rights holder, the goods will be released.
If you want the goods destroyed, you must submit an application within 4 working days. This is known as an ‘ex officio Application for Action’. You cannot make an ‘ex officio Application for Action’ for perishable goods. If you do not submit an application, the goods will be released.
An ‘ex officio Application for Action’ will cover that particular consignment of goods, unless you request that the rights are protected for one year when you make the application.
Destruction of goods
If you confirm goods infringe the intellectual property rights covered by your Application for Action, they’ll be destroyed when:
- both you and the importer or owner of the goods agree they can be
- you agree, but the importer or owner does not respond within the notification period
Border Force will let you know if the importer or owner objects to the goods being destroyed. If this happens, you have until the end of the notice period to show you’ve started proceedings to prove the goods infringe your rights. If you fail to do this, the goods will be released.
Goods that arrive by post or express courier
There’s a different procedure for goods arriving by post or express courier that infringe your rights. This is called the small consignments procedure and it allows the goods to be destroyed without consulting you first. This can happen when you instruct Border Force to use the small consignments procedure on your Application for Action and the:
- consignment contains 3 or fewer items, or weighs less than 2 kilograms
- goods are suspected of being counterfeit or pirated
- goods are not perishable
Taking legal action
Instead of destroying the goods, you can choose to take the matter to court. You must write to Border Force telling them you do not agree to the goods being destroyed and confirming you’re starting court proceedings. You must provide evidence of this before the notice period expires, such as:
- a court issued claim form (England and Wales), a writ (Northern Ireland) or a signed summons (Scotland)
- proof the proceedings cover the goods in question
Amending or revoking your application
To make any changes to your application, contact the Application for Action (AFA) Approvals team by email at email@example.com.
For example, you need to tell HMRC if:
- you’re no longer entitled to submit an application
- your intellectual property right no longer has effect, if it has expired or is sold
After you have contacted the AFA Approvals team, your application can then be amended or revoked.
Taking action against grey market goods
Different legal provisions exist if you’re seeking protection in respect of ‘grey market’ imports.
In this guidance ‘grey market’ goods, sometimes referred to as ‘parallel imports’, refers to genuine goods manufactured:
- with the consent of the rights holder but marketed without their consent
- by a person authorised by a rights holder to manufacture a certain quantity of goods but which have been produced in excess of the agreed amount
The legal provisions are:
- section 89 of the Trade Marks Act 1994
- section 111 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA)
The notices must be given in writing to HMRC in the manner set down in the relevant law.
As a rights holder you cannot give notice under these laws after the goods have been imported.
These sections only apply to infringing goods arriving in the UK from either:
- outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
- within the EEA if they have not been entered for free circulation
Goods that are prohibited are liable to forfeiture and may be seized under UK customs law.
Rights holders considering this course of action may want to contact a legal advisor to understand:
- the implications of goods being treated as prohibited
- any indemnity, securities and court proceedings that may follow as a result
If you need advice about giving notice under these arrangements, email the IPR Policy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. The IPR Policy Team will provide details of the payment method.
You’re required to pay an administration fee of £30 (plus VAT) to HMRC for each notice you lodge and you’ll be required to make payment at the time the notice is given.
If you need more information from the Intellectual Property Rights AFA Approvals team:
HM Revenue and Customs
IP Rights AFA Approvals Team
Graeme House, Derby Square
You can also contact the imports and exports helpline for help with importing and exporting goods.