Answer given by Mr Verheugen on behalf of the Commission
Counterfeit inside and outside the European Union (EU) is of high concern to the Commission which has addressed this problem through several actions at a horizontal level. One example is the recently adopted directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights(1).
In the communication(2) to the Council, the Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee on a customs response to latest trends in counterfeiting and piracy of 11 October 2005, the Commission undertook a detailed analysis of the EU customs seizure statistics over the last five years: This analysis revealed that:
seizures of counterfeit goods at customs have increased by 1000 % from 1998 to 2004. Customs now seize more than 100 million articles per year;
Asia, China in particular, is the major producing region; 54 % of the counterfeit goods seized at EU’s external borders came from China, another 7.5 % from Taiwan (2004);
from 2003 to 2004, the number of customs cases involving fakes more than doubled to 22000 cases annually.
These trends are also experienced in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors. However, in terms of data and statistics, one has to bear in mind that reliable data only exists with regard to counterfeit goods actually seized by enforcement authorities — mainly at the EU’s external borders(3). Apart from this data, the Commission can only estimate the extent of counterfeit and its impact on the European market.
1. As to cosmetics, there has been a strong increase over the past five years in seized cosmetic products at external borders. For example, the number of cosmetics and fragrances seized in 2003 was 1 million, which is an eight-fold increase compared with 2002. In 2004, 11 % of counterfeit cosmetic products seized by EU customs originated from China.
In terms of economic impact, counterfeiting substantially reduces revenues of the cosmetics industry in the EU; a study carried out in 2000 by the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that the revenues of the cosmetics industry are reduced by over EUR 3000 million per year.
However, it is worthwhile noting that cosmetics do not represent the bulk of counterfeit goods; only 1 % of the counterfeit goods seized by EU customs are cosmetic products, such as fragrance products.
Concerning medicinal products, a recent survey was undertaken by the group of the EU Medicines Enforcement Officers (EMEO) on behalf of the Heads of Medicines Agencies of the Member States. The results of this survey indicate that, over the last five years, counterfeit medicines were mainly identified in the illegitimate supply chain (170 cases), such as through illegal Internet trade and bodybuilding studios. The minority of cases was detected in the legitimate supply chain (27 cases). No data is currently available focusing on counterfeit medicines coming from China.
2. Counterfeiting has been traditionally a problem in the luxury sector. However, in the abovementioned communication on counterfeiting of 2005, the Commission has pointed at qualitative changes in this respect: most products seized were household products rather than luxury products. In 2004, less than 2 % of articles seized by Customs were luxury goods.
The majority of counterfeited goods seized at the EU’s external borders in 2004 were packets of cigarettes (41 million), CDs and DVDs (18 million) and toys (18 million), not forgetting fake foodstuffs which, with more that 4.5 million seized items, represent an increase of almost 200 % in relation to 2003.
As far as textiles and footwear are concerned, which represent 8 % of the goods seized by customs (some 8 million), The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its reply to Written Question E‑0313/06.
Concerning medicinal products, the abovementioned study by the EMEO identified lifestyle products (hair loss, erectile dysfunction, slimming) and both high volume and high value products to be at particular risk of counterfeiting. However, antibiotics and cough medicines also seem to be a target for counterfeiters. In addition, for the illegitimate supply chain anabolic steroids, painkillers and growth hormones for bodybuilding use, sleeping medication (benzodiazepines), psychotropic substances and antibiotics/antimalarials destined for Africa were mentioned.
3. In 2004, Italian customs intercepted more than 22 million fake articles (leading Member State in terms of number of seized goods in 2004) among which 72 % originated from China. In relation to counterfeit articles in general, 21 % of all counterfeit articles intercepted at the EU borders were seized by customs at Italian borders. More than 2.5 million textile products, more than 2 million telephone and other electrical equipment, 11 million games and toys have been blocked by the Italian customs administration.
As regards medicinal products, as Member States are responsible for the enforcement of any activities against counterfeit, they are currently evaluating the results of the above mentioned survey by EMEO with the aim of identifying the extent of the problem and the development of an anti-counterfeit strategy.