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Brussels, 10 November 2004

EU strengthens fight against piracy and counterfeiting beyond its borders

In an effort to halt the increase in piracy and counterfeiting the European Commission has today adopted a strategy for the enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries. The action plan focuses on vigorous and effective implementation and enforcement of existing IPR laws. It proposes to identify priority countries where enforcement actions should be concentrated. Stress will be put on technical cooperation and assistance to help third countries fight counterfeiting but the Commission will not hesitate to trigger all bilateral and multilateral sanction mechanisms against any country involved in systematic violations. The Commission will foster awareness raising of users and consumers in third countries and support the creation of public-private partnerships for enforcement.

EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said: “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: “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, confronted with the misappropriation of their creations. Adopting new legislation on intellectual property is one thing. But devising the right tools to enforce it is another. This is now our priority”

This Strategy sets the guidelines for the European Commission in the coming years towards a reduction of the level of IPR violations taking place beyond the EU borders, worldwide. It follows a logical sequence of recent initiatives taken by the EU to tackle this problem within the EU and at its border.

It is not the EU purpose to re-invent the wheel, but to show that we are committed to work more and better in an area where putting in place legislation is not sufficient. It is essential that third countries accompany the commitments agreed to in the WTO and in bilateral agreements by a genuine willingness to tackle the problem at their borders, in their courts, and in their streets. From our part, we must ensure that our right-holders are effectively protected against the misappropriation of their property and our citizens in general against the dangers of piracy and counterfeiting

The Strategy in detail:

  1. Identifying priority countries: EU action will focus 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.
  2. Awareness raising: promote 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 make available to the public and to the authorities of third countries concerned a “Guidebook on Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights”.
  3. 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.
  4. 4 IPR mechanisms in multilateral (including TRIPs), 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..
  5. Dispute settlement - sanctions: recall the possibility that right-holders have to make use of the Trade Barriers Regulation or of bilateral agreements, in cases of evidence of violations of TRIPs; in addition to the WTO dispute settlement, recall the possibility to use dispute settlement mechanisms included in bilateral agreements in case of non-compliance with the required standards of IPR protection.
  6. Creation of 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.

See also IP/04/540, IP/04/1059
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