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What is a Customs Application for Action (AFA)?


An AFA is an invaluable weapon for IP rights holders to fight against counterfeits and infringing goods inundating the marketplace in the EU, the UK and abroad. AFAs allow IP rights holders to put the relevant authorities on notice of their IP rights in order to identify, seize and destroy infringing and counterfeit goods. HMRC and the EUIPO allow and encourage IP rights holders to apply for electronic AFAs (eAFAs) in the UK and EU, which equips Border Forces, Customs Authorities and/or Online Enforcement Agencies to identify and detain goods passing through the borders which are suspected of infringing IP rights including trade marks, patents, designs, geographical indications and copyright. It is possible to safeguard against multiple IP rights relating to more than one product provided that they are owned by the same entity.


AFAs in the EU


In the EU, IPEP is the official AFA e-filing tool for all Member States and the alternative for Germany, Italy and Spain which have developed their own online portals. It is possible to obtain a Union AFA (covering all Member States) or national EU AFAs. The main advantage of filing the AFAs electronically is that the information contained is shared in the Customs COPIS database in an organised manner, is searchable and can be made available to the different analysis systems used by authorities. Further, the AFA is generated in all the languages of the Member States where the AFA will be applicable. However, any attached documents to the AFA are not translated. Once an AFA has been granted by the submission country, the AFA is also valid in all selected applicable Member States, in which Customs action is requested by the IP rights holder.


AFA requirements in the UK and EU


AFAs can be as detailed as the IP rights holders require but there is a requirement for mandatory information in the UK and EU in order to file the AFAs. The mandatory requirements differ in the UK and EU and we would be happy to advise further on this. Authorities encourage IP rights holders to include information on genuine goods as well as known counterfeit/infringing goods in order to assist in the detection of such goods. Our attorneys will work with you to address your IP and commercial needs, advise on the best strategy in order to ensure that the AFA is adequate in order to help protect your assets.

AFA process in the UK and EU


The application process is cost effective and relatively quick in the UK and EU- authorities aim to process AFAs within 30 working days. In the UK, HMRC has been known to grant AFAs within one working day. Once the EU and UK AFAs have been filed and accepted, Border Force will then be able to detect suspicious goods.  


If the Authorities detect suspicious goods, they will contact the IP rights holder or their specified representative for confirmation as to whether the suspicious goods are genuine or not and request a response within 3 or 10 working days depending on the shelf-life of the goods. If the goods have a long shelf-life, it is possible to obtain a 10-working day extension to initiate legal proceedings if required. Border Force will also inform the importer/owner of the suspected counterfeit goods that their goods have been detained and will also request a response within 3 or 10 working days to agree or object to the goods being destroyed. If no objection is received or it is agreed, the goods can be destroyed. If the importer/owner of the counterfeit goods objects, the IP rights holder will need to initiate legal proceedings to determine whether there has been an infringement otherwise the goods will be released.


Maintenance of AFAs in the UK and EU


UK and EU AFAs are in place for one year and are renewed annually (at least 30 working days before the expiration of the AFA). The AFAs will need to be maintained throughout the validity of the AFAs, for example, updating information including when the IP rights relied on in the AFAs are renewed or have expired, updating new partner information (i.e. new authorised retailers), updating information if certain partners no longer have a relationship with the business, new known infringers, etc. 


Keltie’s Customs Department


At Keltie, we are dedicated to protecting our clients’ IP rights, combating infringement and dilution by preserving the integrity of our clients' brands and reputation. The expansion and evolution of Keltie’s Customs department marks our continued commitment to safeguard the interests of our clients in a developing global marketplace. We recommend that IP rights holders take the necessary steps to ensure that they have the means to fight against copycat and counterfeit goods from the outset. We are passionate in fighting against infringing and counterfeit goods by managing and enforcing valuable assets.


Our services include:


  • In-house training sessions with clients, Customs and Border Force Authorities.
  • Filing, maintenance, management and renewal of Customs Applications in the UK, Ireland and the EU.
  • Monitoring, reporting, negotiations and investigations.
  • Foreign Customs Application management via our network of associates.
  • Reputation management and enforcement strategy and advice.




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