Commission takes piracy fight to non-EU countries
The European Commission yesterday launched a new campaign to tackle piracy and counterfeiting in countries outside the European Union, focusing on the monitoring of priority countries and the enforcement of existing agreements.
The number of counterfeit or pirated goods seized at the borders of the EU increased by over 800% in the years between 1998 and 2002, according to the Commission’s figures, and the intercepted goods - almost 85 million in 2002 - are expected to be only the tip of the iceberg.
The Commission warns that all sectors of the EU economy, from cereal boxes and cigarettes to seeds and aeroplane parts, are being affected by the practice - and that it is not limited solely to luxury brands and CDs.
“Some of these fakes, like pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs constitute an outright danger to the public, while others undermine the survival of EU’s most innovative sectors,” said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy yesterday.
“Piracy and counterfeiting continue to grow every year and have become industries, increasingly run by criminal organisations. This is a serious problem for us but also for third countries whose companies are also suffering the consequences of violation of their own intellectual property rights,” he added.
The Commission has over the past few years adopted various Directives and Regulations aimed at tackling the problem within the EU. It has now turned its attention to the infringements of European intellectual property rights (IPR) taking place beyond its borders.
The Strategy announced yesterday focuses on existing multilateral and bilateral agreements between countries, the commitments made by every member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and on the WTO’s intellectual property agreement, known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement.
The strategy proposes that the EU:
– Identify priority countries - focusing on the most problematic countries in terms of IPR violations. These countries will be identified according to a regular survey to be conducted by the Commission among all stakeholders, the last one of which identified China, Thailand, Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and South Korea as the worst IPR offenders.
– Raise awareness - promoting initiatives to raise public awareness about the impact of counterfeiting (loss of foreign investment and technology transfer, risks to health, link with organised crime, etc.) and making available to the public and to the authorities of third countries concerned, a “Guidebook on Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights”.
– Encourage political dialogue, incentives and technical co-operation - ensuring that technical assistance provided to third countries focuses on IPR enforcement, especially in priority countries; exchanging ideas and information with other key providers of technical co-operation, like the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the US or Japan, with the aim of avoiding duplication of efforts and sharing of best-practices.
– Use the IPR mechanisms in multilateral, bi-regional and bilateral agreements - raising enforcement concerns in the framework of these agreements more systematically; consulting trading partners with the aim of launching an initiative in the WTO TRIPs Council; sounding the alert on the growing dimension of the problem; identifying the causes and proposing solutions and strengthening IPR enforcement clauses in bilateral agreements.
– Make more use of dispute settlement processes and sanctions - the Trade Barriers Regulation or of bilateral agreements, in cases of evidence of violations of TRIPs; and, in addition to the WTO dispute settlement process, the dispute settlement mechanisms included in bilateral agreements in case of non-compliance with the required standards of IPR protection.
– Create public-private partnerships - supporting/participating in local IP networks established in relevant third countries; using mechanisms already put in place by Commission services (IPR Help Desk and Innovation Relay Centres) to exchange information with right-holders and associations; build on the co-operation with companies and associations that are very active in the fight against piracy/counterfeiting.