Combating counterfeiting and piracy in the single market
This Communication presents, in the form of an action plan, the different measures and initiatives that the Commission intends to take to improve and strengthen the combating of counterfeiting and piracy in the internal market. It follows on from the Commission's Green Paper of October 1998, which launched a general consultation on this subject..
Commission Communication of 30 November 2000 "Follow-up to the Green Paper on combating counterfeiting and piracy in the single market" [COM(2000) 789 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
1. Counterfeiting and piracy have become an international phenomenon with considerable economic and social repercussions. They are also affecting the proper functioning of the single market and impacting on consumer protection, particularly with regard to public health and safety. This situation causes deflections of trade and distortion of competition, leading to a loss of confidence on the part of operators in the single market and a reduction in investment.
These activities are estimated to represent between 5 and 7% of world trade and a global loss of 200 000 jobs per year. Moreover, European Union (EU) businesses with international activities are estimated to lose between 400 and 800 million in the single market and around 2000 million outside the EU. The software sector is particularly affected.
Responses to the Green Paper
3. The responses to the Green Paper confirm the scale of the problems and the detrimental effects on the proper functioning of the internal market. The parties concerned mentioned several factors facilitating this sort of situation, in particular the current disparities between Member States in the systems of sanctions and other means of enforcing intellectual property rights. For this reason, the parties concerned, including the Member States, wish to see this problem approached at EU level. Moreover, the responses to the Green Paper reveal a broad consensus on the need to improve administrative cooperation between the Member States. The Commission has emphasised the fact that, although it is desirable for the Commission to play a major role in this matter, the primary responsibility lies with holders of intellectual property rights, who must themselves exercise vigilance.
4. The Communication contains an action plan setting out:
- urgent measures for which Commission proposals will be presented speedily;
- medium-term Commission measures; and
- other initiatives involving public authorities and the private sector.
These measures should be incorporated in horizontal initiatives in the areas of justice and home affairs.
The following measures are considered to be urgent:
- a proposal for a directive to boost the means of enforcing intellectual property rights and to define a general framework for exchanging information. The aim of this initiative will be to harmonise the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States on this matter. The measures will relate only to additional improvements to the TRIPS agreement;
- using existing programmes to devise training actions for officials in enforcement agencies, including those of candidate countries, and public information and awareness-raising measures;
- the Commission will continue to give priority in the enlargement negotiations to combating counterfeiting and piracy;
- launching a study to define a methodology for collecting, analysing and comparing data;
- identifying a contact point at Commission level to provide a link between the various departments with respect to work in this field, and to facilitate transparency vis-à-vis the outside world.
In the medium-term, the Commission will examine:
- the case for establishing additional mechanisms for administrative cooperation to combat counterfeiting and piracy, in particular between the relevant national authorities but also between these authorities and the Commission;
- whether it is necessary to present proposals for harmonising the minimum thresholds for penalties, for extending the field of competence of Europol in this area, and for putting in place a structure allowing access, for example via an Internet site, to the legal decisions handed down by national courts in this area.
The Commission makes recommendations aimed at improving the use of existing information systems and stepping up cooperation and the exchange of information between the private sector and public authorities, such as:
- improving cooperation between the private sector and public authorities, e.g. by ensuring the compatibility of existing databases in order to improve the way they are used;
- improving European judicial cooperation through existing instruments and instruments being developed at Community level;
- making use of the possibilities offered by the Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Development (R&D) for developing new technologies and new techniques.