Commission continues fighting against fakes

Commission has published Annual Report on EU Customs actions to enforce intellectual property rights. In 2009, EU Customs took action in 43,500 cases involving several million products suspected of being counterfeited or pirated at the external borders of the EU, according to this report.

The Commission’s annual report on EU Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which has been  published, shows that cigarettes, clothing and brand labels were among the main articles stopped by customs on suspicion of IPR infringements. However, products for daily use and posing a potential danger to citizens’ health, such as shampoos, toothpaste, toys, medicines or household appliances, also accounted for a significant part. Besides, the report gives statistics on the type, origin and transport method of IPR infringing products stopped at the external borders.

Main findings of the Report

The Report shows an upward trend in the number of goods suspected of violating intellectual property rights. The report notes that, while in the past luxury goods were the most hit by IPR infringements, more and more items used by citizens in their daily lives are now affected. Of the top categories detained, cigarettes accounted for 19%, other tobacco products 16%, labels 13% and medicines 10%. China continued to be the main source of IPR infringing products, totalling 64% of the total of IPR infringing articles while other countries such as United Arab Emirates and Egypt accounted for the majority in certain product categories. More than 77% of all detained products were destroyed or a court case was initiated to determine the infringement.

The importance of protecting Intellectual Property Rights

As the EU’s 2020 Strategy underlines, the protection of IPR is key in promoting research, innovation and job creation in Europe. Effective IPR enforcement is also an essential part of protecting the health and safety of EU citizens, because certain counterfeited products (such as foodstuffs, body-care articles and children’s items) which are produced in an unregulated environment can pose a serious threat.

The role of EU Customs

EU Customs play a crucial role in stopping products which violate intellectual property rights from entering the Internal Market. A number of actions are being carried out by the Commission to strengthen Customs’ ability to combat such trade. The Commission is working towards a proposal to improve the current legislation on customs actions against IPR infringing goods and simplify current procedures. It carried out an extensive review of the existing legislation with Member States. On this basis, the Commission intends to come forward with a legislative proposal by the end of the year.

Good cooperation with international trading partners can significantly help in preventing and detecting IPR infringing goods from being exported to the EU. In 2009, the EU signed an Action Plan with China specifically focussed on enhancing cooperation in IPR customs enforcement, which it plans to extend in the coming months until the end of 2012.

Cooperation with industry is also extremely important in ensuring that goods which violate IPR can be properly identified. Businesses can request specific customs actions where they suspect that their intellectual property rights are being violated, and the information provided by industry helps Customs to better target their controls. The Commission has established a manual for right holders, to help them to lodge such requests, and remains in close contact with the private sector to see where further improvements in controls could be made.