A deal with the Council to give customs officials at EU borders better tools to confiscate, store and destoy goods that infringe intellectual property rights was endorsed by Internal Market Committee MEPs on Thursday.
Imports that infringe Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are a growing problem in the EU due in particular to the rising volume of goods bought by EU citizens online and shipped to them by post from countries outside the EU. Piracy and counterfeiting alone cost European businesses €250 billion in lost sales each year.
"The ever-growing trade in counterfeit goods threatens not only the growth of our economy and thereby our jobs - it also involves considerable risks for the health and safety of consumers", said lead MEP Jürgen Creutzmann (ALDE, DE).
"Customs officials at the EU's external borders are in a comparatively good position to stop infringing goods before they enter the internal market. This new deal will help them carry out their task faster and more effectively", he added.
The new regulation on Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights aims to improve the effectiveness of customs controls so as to prevent illegal or dangerous products from entering the EU while setting down clear rules on detention and destruction procedures.
However, the regulation does not change the rules defining an "IPR infringement". Non-commercial goods carried in a traveller's personal luggage are excluded from its scope.
The new rules will allow customs officials to work faster and more effectively. They include a simplified procedure to allow the destruction of goods without a court order, provided that the copyright holder agrees and the importer does not object.
A special procedure for small consignments of up to two kilos will also speed up the destruction of counterfeit goods. The new rules set a 10-day deadline for the importer to object before the good is destroyed.
In general an IPR holder asking the customs authorities to enforce his rights would bear the costs of destroying the goods. However, the right holder could seek compensation from the infringer or other persons, including intermediaries such as carriers, in accordance with national law. Consumers who buy goods from abroad in good faith could not be deemed liable if they infringe IPRs.
Medicines in transit
The agreement underlines that custom authorities must abide by the EU's international commitments and that medicines in transit may only be delayed or confiscated if there is "substantial likelihood" that they will end up on the EU market.
Once Parliament has received confirmation of the Council's position it will be asked to give its final plenary endorsement at a second reading without further changing the text.
The regulation is to apply directly in all member states from 1 January 2014.
The Committee endorsed the agreement by 33 votes in favour and 3 against.
In the chair: Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK)