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Sat 7 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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Customs look for copy control

As our campaign against counterfeiters reaches a head, Angela Giuffrida reports on the efforts of Dubai Customs to crack down on the number of fake products entering the emirate each year.

Only a tiny fraction of all fake building products are seized across Dubai’s ports each year. Although random checks are carried out on suspect consignments, officials estimate that just 7% of fake goods are nabbed.

In June, Dubai Customs stepped up the fight against counterfeiters, when it established the Intellectual Property Unit (IPU). The unit handles complaints from brand owners or lawyers against imports, exports and goods in transit, and is in talks with the other emirates to set up a joint monitoring system to pinpoint exactly how fake goods are reaching the UAE.

But curbing the problem of phoney building products is proving to be a challenge, particularly with the high volume of goods passing through Dubai’s 14 ports each day.

Lamps, light switches, door locks and cement are some of the products that have been seized at the point of entry in recent months.

“Containers arrive in Dubai every minute of the day, and although we use scanners and carry out spot checks, these products still manage to find a way in,” said Khalid Babiker El Nour, a legal advisor at the IPU.

“But construction in particular is a complicated sector for us and very different to other areas.

“With construction products, it’s difficult to make distinctions between what is fake and what isn’t because the material and chemical analysis is very technical.”

Most of the goods seized originate from Asia and the Far East. But it can take up to six months before they are ruled counterfeit and action is taken. The criminal laboratory at the Dubai Police Headquarters carries out tests on all suspect products.

“If the products are proven to be fake, then we destroy them and begin legal proceedings,” added El Nour.

“The other problem with building products is that counterfeiters are producing to such a high standard — almost precise replicas of the original — that even technical experts cannot tell the difference.”

Dubai Customs is working in collaboration with the Department for Economic Development, Dubai Police and the World Commerce Organisation in a bid to counteract the issue, with one of the aims being to protect Dubai’s reputation as a world-class business player.

“Dubai is booming and everyone wants to do business here.“We now have the job of clearing the market of counterfeit and creating a new environment that will attract foreign investors without the headache of illegal competition,” said El Nour.

He also said that another target is to make consumers more aware of the issue.

“Consumers here don’t have a culture of knowing the difference between genuine and fake and are not aware of the dangers of using fake items.

“Manufacturing costs in the new real estate field, for example, have become very high, but if the right material isn’t used it will be very costly for those buying the real estate.

“It is up to the building firms to be very keen to use genuine parts and stop the phenomenon of counterfeit in Dubai.”

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