News & insights
Iran: Demystifying Trademark Enforcement Options
September 6, 2017
Iran, the second-largest nation in the Middle East, shares borders with Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. The country has a coastline that stretches 2,440 km along the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman. Iran’s GDP is estimated to be $1.459 trillion, whereas the GDP per capita is $18,100. Industry accounts for 39.9 percent of the GDP composition, followed by 51 percent for services, and 9.1 percent for agriculture. Industries in Iran include petroleum, petrochemicals, construction materials, and food processing.
Iran’s main exports are petroleum and chemical and petrochemical products. Main export partners include Japan, China, India, and Turkey. On the other hand, imports into Iran include industrial supplies, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, and technical services. Main import partners include South Korea, China, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
With a continuously developing economy in Iran comes the apparent increase both in the volume and types of counterfeit and infringing products trafficked into and from or through the country. Brand owners have the option to enforce their rights in Iran by taking the following measures based on the applicable laws and regulations:
- Trademark Law: The Trademark Law contains a handful of procedural provisions that can be used to address trademark infringement and counterfeiting of goods. The extent to which a trademark owner may prevent unauthorized use of identical or confusingly similar trademarks depends on various factors including whether the mark is registered or well-known, the similarity of the trademarks involved, and the similarity of the products or services involved. For the trademark owner to demonstrate their rights and to enforce these rights through an infringement action in Iran, it is always recommended that they have their trademarks registered.
- Border Measures: There is no customs recordation system in place in Iran. Nevertheless, should there be specific information about a certain shipment of counterfeit products entering Iran, it is possible proceed with a complaint to seize the consignment followed by a criminal action.
- Litigation: It is possible to initiate civil or criminal proceedings to enforce trademark rights. The criminal proceedings have proven very effective and less time consuming, and as such brand owners are advised to proceed with criminal actions. More importantly, should the public prosecutor accept a complaint in a criminal action, the police would raid the location and confiscate the infringing products. This is not possible in a civil action unless a preliminary injunction is requested. A criminal action usually takes between 6 and12 months before a verdict of the court of first instance is issued. In many instances, it takes much less time if a settlement is reached and the adverse party signs an undertaking before the public prosecutor.
- Raids: Upon filing a criminal complaint by the trademark owners, the public prosecutor would then assess the case. Given sufficent evidence of infringement, the public prosecutor would then order the local police to conduct a raid. It typically takes between one and three months for the raid to be conducted depending on the location of the infringing target.
Trademark owners must be ready to adopt an enforcement model that incorporates a well-rounded approach by examining their legal options, as well as performing trademark portfolio audits, to arrive at a well-established protection strategy. Needless to say, owners should seek legal advice before they decide on the best route to pursue in Iran.
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