For quite some time, Thai Customs lacked clear procedures for examining and seizing counterfeit goods which were being shipped through Thailand, whether simply in transit or being transshipped to destinations outside the country. This changed with the issuance of two Customs department notifications, which provide rights owners with a new tool to tackle transiting or transshipped counterfeit goods in Thailand rather than at the final destination.
As a result of becoming a contractual party to the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures, the Royal Thai Customs Department issued two Notifications, Nos. 210/2558 and 211/2558,1 for the purpose of establishing procedures related to goods in transit and transshipments. Among other procedures, Customs officers are empowered to examine and search goods without a search warrant if the officers have a reason to believe that the goods:
- are related to terrorism
- violate national security, peace and international safety or
- are falsely declared or otherwise illegal
If Customs discovers these types of goods, it has the authority to confiscate, destroy, or re-export the goods.
Referring to the term "illegal" as used in this notification is quite broad, and there is no clear definition as to whether this term includes goods that violate Thai intellectual property law or not. However, in a recent case involving a shipment containing suspected infringing goods which was transiting through Thailand, Customs officers concluded that “illegal” goods included goods that violate intellectual property laws and proceeded to detain the shipment for further examination. This recent Customs action made it clear that the detainment, examination, and seizure of counterfeit products passing through Thailand is possible and provides an alternative to taking action at the destination port, which could be especially important if the destination does not have in place adequate regulations or procedures to detain such suspected shipments.
1 Separate agreements have also been signed between the Thai government and the Lao and Malaysian governments for goods that will pass through Thailand to these countries, but these agreements follow the same procedures, with certain additional formality requirements.