The Authors' Take - Shipment of Counterfeit Goods in Singapore: The Extent of Liability of Freight Forwarders

Shipment of Counterfeit Goods in Singapore: 
The Extent of Liability of Freight Forwarders

Yusarn Audrey

As part of international trade, goods are commonly shipped and delivered across multiple borders (eg. due to transhipment). This inevitably exposes shippers (freight forwarders) that knowingly or unknowingly carry counterfeit goods to border enforcement laws and applicable regulations of multiple jurisdictions. In particular, questions of their liability for trade mark infringement (or other forms of infringement of intellectual property rights) may arise due to their carrying of the said shipments.

This issue was discussed by the Singapore High Court decision in Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Megastar Shipping Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 305 (High Court of Singapore, 24 November 2017) (LV v Megastar), where guidance was provided vis-à-vis the potential liability of freight forwarders that carry shipments containing counterfeit goods.

The High Court determined that whether a freight forwarder (or other intermediary) would be liable for trade mark infringement is highly fact-sensitive, and depends on various factors such as the nature of the transaction and the extent of their knowledge and/or involvement in the same.

The court also made it clear that trade mark infringement may arise even if the goods are merely in transit (eg. where the shipment is brought into Singapore temporarily pending transhipment to another location) and are not actually placed on the market in Singapore.

[This is an Authors' Take post, which provides readers with an insight into current IP scholarship, featuring preliminary comments and thoughts from authors of articles accepted for publication in forthcoming issues of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (OUP).]