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Plenary focus: Strasbourg plenary session 2-5 July 2012

Customs needs better tools to enforce intellectual property rights

A container with thousands of confiscated counterfeit Swiss watches © BELGA_EPA_S.CAMPARDO   Concerns about impact on generic drugs © BELGA_EPA_S.CAMPARDO

Pirated and counterfeit products cost European businesses €250 billion a year and some pose a risk to health and safety. One way to protect EU markets and consumers is to prevent them from entering the EU and customs authorities are best placed to do that. On Monday 2 July MEPs discussed a report by German Liberal Jürgen Creutzmann on how to strengthen customs enforcement of intellectual property rights.

"Large parts of the economic growth and jobs in the EU depend on the effective enforcement of intellectual property rights...customs authorities are in a comparatively good position to enforce" them, Creutzmann says.

The new rules would set down procedures enabling customs authorities to stop suspected goods, but deciding what infringes intellectual property rules would continue to be defined by EU and national legislation.

The Commission proposal extends the scope of the rules to include illegal parallel trade (trade in goods not approved by the rights holder through unapproved channels) and lookalike trade marks.

It also proposes that people receiving small postal consignments of counterfeit goods would be given the option of agreeing to their destruction without having to pay the costs of storage and destruction. The EP report wants small consignments to be defined as less than 3 items, weighing less than 2 kilos and contained in one package. It also wants the customer to have a say before the goods are destroyed.

The EP report also expresses concern that the measures could hamper the legitimate trade in generic drugs between non-EU countries and stresses that intellectual property legislation applies only to goods being delivered in the EU and not to goods transiting through Europe.

It also calls for a Commission analysis of the effectiveness of current customs measures aimed at combating trade in falsified medicines.

Intellectual property infringements

pirated, counterfeit goods cost EU business €250 billion a year


14.5% of detained articles in 2010 for daily use (foods, beverages, body care, medicines, electrical household goods, toys)


customs registered 43,572 cases (118 million articles) of counterfeiting, piracy in 2009


79,112 cases of counterfeiting and piracy registered by customs in 2010


Sharp rise in counterfeit and pirated goods shipped by post via online sales