In 2009, over 43 500 cases of goods suspected of violating intellectual property rights were stopped by customs at the external borders of the EU, totalling 118 million articles. Counterfeiting, piracy and infringements of intellectual property rights are constantly growing phenomena, which have reached a global dimension. Fake products constitute a serious threat to national economies and governments, as well as to the health and safety of EU citizens.
A growing priority
In addition to economic and social consequences, counterfeiting and piracy entail considerable health and safety risks by undermining the system of consumer protection. Certain counterfeited products (such as foodstuffs, medicines, body-care articles and children’s items) that are produced in an unregulated environment can cause serious harm. The increased use of the Internet enables pirated products to be instantly distributed around the globe. Counterfeiting and piracy are also increasingly linked to the activities of organised criminal groups, who are attracted by this extremely profitable, low-risk business.
Fighting against supply and demand
Tackling the supply of fake goods requires concerted action in three areas: within the EU, at its borders and in its relations with non-EU countries. Within the EU, legislation on the enforcement of intellectual property rights provides for non-criminal sanctions and measures as a deterrent against counterfeiters. However, additional measures are needed, such as reinforcing law enforcement cooperation on trans-border, serious organised crime and possibly also proposing new legislation on criminal measures related to intellectual property rights.
Within the European Union Intellectual Property Office, the Commission services are working on the law enforcement and criminal aspects of counterfeiting and piracy. They also cooperate with stakeholders from private and public sectors and funds expert events on counterfeiting and on fake medicines and pharmaceutical crime.
The Commission has participated as an observer in discussions in the international fora on the criminal aspects of counterfeiting, such as in the Council of Europe (Convention on counterfeited pharmaceuticals). It also took part in the negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – a multilateral agreement establishing international standards on enforcement of intellectual property rights.