Chinese customs seize PV modules suspected of intellectual property infringement

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Shanghai Customs temporarily seized multiple containers suspected of intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement based on IPR registration records, according to Chinese media outlet Xinhua Daily.

Among the seized products were TOPCon HiKu 6 modules from Chinese-Canadian manufacturer Canadian Solar that were shipped to be shipped to Europe and valued at CNY 3.73 million ($513,700), as well as TOPCon Tangra modules from Sunova Solar, which were being shipped to Latin America, valued at CNY 1.43 million.

The total value of the detained containers, amounting to nine units, exceeded CNY 5 million.

Shanghai Customs explained that the protective registration of IPR systems provided by Chinese customs is an essential means for enterprises to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights. After companies register their patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property with customs, if goods suspected of infringement are detected during customs clearance, customs authorities can seize the goods and notify the rights holders according to the Regulations on Customs Protection of Intellectual Property Rights of the People's Republic of China, thereby effectively preventing economic losses to the rights holders.

In a statement to pv magazine, a spokesperson from Canadian Solar said that, in China, any party may request customs to detain incoming or outgoing containers based on alleged IP infringements, provided they pay a required bond. “This is a standard procedure and does not imply any established infringement,” the spokesperson said.

Such detentions typically require the detained party to pay an administrative penalty or provide proof of non-infringement for the cargo to be released. However, these situations often conclude with the payment of fines.

Sunova Solar said it is is carefully investigating the allegations. “As customs detention of products can be requested by any party by bond payments, it is a standard process, which does not in any way confirm or imply an established case,” a spokesperson from the company told pv magazine.

With the development of the solar industry, IPR protection has become a crucial support for technological innovation and industrial upgrading for Chinese enterprises. This year alone, companies such as JinkoSolar, JA Solar, and Trina Solar have publicly called for stronger penalties against IPR infringement violations and have advocated for international cooperation on IPR protection.

The increase in IPR disputes among Chinese photovoltaic enterprises highlights the need for Shanghai Customs' scrutiny of exports to significantly reduce the future flow of solar products suspected of IPR infringement into overseas markets.

*The article was updated on June 21 to add a statement from Sunova Solar.

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