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As counterfeit activity grows and seizures decrease, the outlook looks murky for Australian brand owners.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) was established in July 2015 following the merger of Australian Customs and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The ABF is tasked with border protection and national security duties including the policing of counterfeit goods.

Australia has a robust legislative framework to address the importation of counterfeit goods. In September 2014, Australian Customs held an “Ideas Summit” to workshop options for improving detection of IP infringements at the border. Industry stakeholders were optimistic following the summit that improvements to better tackle the problem of counterfeit goods were achievable.

In 2012-13 Australian customs seized in excess of 513,000 counterfeit goods with an estimated retail value of $43 million. In 2013-14 the number of counterfeit goods seized had almost doubled to 975,000 - suggesting that the heady optimism following the Ideas Summit was well placed. The year 2014-15 however saw the number of counterfeit goods seized by Australian customs dramatically fall back to around 560,000 – close to 2012-13 levels. Early indications are that the figures for counterfeit goods seized in the year 2015-16 could be significantly lower again.

In the first 9 months of ABF operations, well regarded training events providing brand owners the opportunity to brief customs officers on their brands have been cancelled and anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of seizure notices being issued has slowed to a trickle. The seizure of counterfeit goods at the Australian border appears to have stalled.

Brand owners live in hope that the apparent downturn in the number of counterfeit goods seized at Australia’s borders represents mere teething issues at the newly minted ABF. If, however, it is indicative of a more general re-prioritization of resources within the ABF, Australia’s borders risk being wide open to counterfeit goods at a time when counterfeit activity continues to grow on a global scale.

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