A model Customs case in China: creating the right conditions for effective IP enforcement by Chinese authorities.

by Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells


In May 2016, the General Administration of Customs (“GAC”) and the Public Security Bureau (“PSB”) jointly uncovered large amounts of counterfeit automobile engine lubricants. The lubricants were first sold on e-commerce platforms and then imported into China from Southeast Asia. A successful wide-scale investigation ensued, involving seamless co-operation between Customs, the PSB and the UK authorities. The case was recently chosen by the GAC as the top case of Chinese border enforcement for 2016 (see here – Chinese language), and offers some useful insights for brand owners who want to include Customs actions in their China IP enforcement strategy.

The facts of the case can be summarized as follows: after the discovery of the counterfeit lubricants, the GAC and the PSB jointly set up an investigation group including the Hangzhou, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Huangpu, and Tianjin Customs. These five Customs houses then closely monitored the amount of engine lubricants being imported from a number of flagged South-East Asian countries. Some key results from this joint investigation were:

  • 20 enforcement seizures, of which 6 were escalated to the PSB for prosecution;
  • Seizure of 80 tons of counterfeit lubricants, valued at c. RMB 9,500,000 (USD 1,447,729);
  • PSB and Customs officials closed and destroyed the contents of 5 storage houses holding counterfeit goods, arrested 11 suspects, and seized no less than 110,000 bottles of counterfeit engine lubricants.

What sets this case apart was that both Customs and the PSB mobilized a joint team to handle this case, and that this team was able to seamlessly share information and resources. Why was this case prioritized by the Chinese authorities? We believe this was due to the heavy involvement of the UK authorities (both UK Embassy staff and UK IP Office staff were involved in prioritizing and prosecuting this case), the sheer quantity and value of the counterfeit goods, and the media attention for this case.


This case shows the effectiveness of the various Chinese law enforcement agencies and their ability to work together when the circumstances are right. However, in practice it is often difficult for right owners to get Customs and the PSB to spend adequate resources on cases involving customs seizures. The main lessons from this case are therefore:

  1. Retain representatives on the ground (either lawyers or specialized employees) who can react quickly and effectively, within the very tight deadlines for customs seizures;
  2. Record your IP with Customs, so Customs can make ex officio seizures (see our article here)
  3. Do not just focus on brick-and-mortar counterfeiters, but also monitor e-commerce platforms and actively coordinate with Customs when it is suspected that counterfeits are being imported via a certain e-commerce provider or from a certain location;
  4. When it is expected that a customs case is high profile or otherwise important (e.g. food or product safety etc.), foreign companies may involve their governmental authorities (e.g. IP attachés, IP Office etc.) to help raise the profile of the case with the Chinese Customs and PSB.

GAC has indicated in their recent publications that , they will be placing more emphasis on international co-operation in conjunction with strengthening domestic co-operation between law enforcement agencies (such as Customs and PRB) going forward (full report hereChinese language). Hopefully this new emphasis will lead to smoother prosecutions of future Chinese customs cases.

We will continue to monitor these trends and will provide updates when they become available.

See also: “Things you should know about IP Protection by Chinese Customs, see here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Hogan Lovells | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.