Brussels, 20 June 2006
US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Industry Günter Verheugen and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will today launch a joint EU-US action programme to tackle global intellectual property piracy. The programme was conceived in 2005 and will be endorsed by the EU-US Summit in Vienna on June 21. The joint strategy is an important reinforcement of the global fight against counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. It is the first EU-US joint enforcement programme of its kind.
EU Commission Vice President and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen said: “Our industry won’t be able to win the global race with rock-bottom prices and low quality. The only way forward is innovation, invention and quality. When ideas or brands and products are pirated, ripped-off and counterfeited, this strategy is doomed. This is why the EU and the US have joined forces to combat the pirating of products in a more effective way.”
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said: “The issue of intellectual property protection goes to the heart of the ability of the EU and the US to compete in the global economy because our high-value goods have strong intellectual content. Stepping up the enforcement fight required a joint strategy and it needed to have some teeth.”
Among the key EU-US proposals are commitments to:
• Closer customs co-operation including joint border enforcement actions where EU-US customs officials will cooperate to tackle intellectual piracy.
• Joint enforcement in third countries, including the creation of teams of EU and US diplomats in third country embassies specially tasked with data and intelligence sharing and joint surveillance responsibilities.
• Strongly increased collaboration with the private sector, which has consistently advocated improved intellectual property protection as the key to EU competitiveness.
Initial efforts will focus on working with China and Russia. But the EU and the US also have major concerns in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The programme aims to help emerging markets reinforce their own efforts to tackle intellectual property theft.
The protection of intellectual property rights is not just an issue for developed countries. Developing countries that tolerate the existence of a parallel black economy in their market quickly lose the confidence of vital foreign investors and services traders and the technology transfer these bring. They also undermine the development of innovative and creative businesses in their own economy. Everyone in the global economy benefits when intellectual property rights are secured.
Not just expensive handbags...a problem getting worse
The number of counterfeit items seized at EU borders has increased by more than 1000% between 1998 and 2004, rising from 10 million in 1998 to over 103 million in 2004. In the 1980s, 70% of counterfeiting concerned luxury goods. In 2004, more than 4.4 million items of fake foodstuffs and drinks were seized at European Union borders, a growth of almost 200% since 1998. Counterfeiting affects almost every area of industrial manufacturing: including fake airplane parts, car parts, electrical appliances, medicines and toys.
The trade in counterfeit medicines is also growing fast: it accounted for almost 10% of world trade in medicines 2004 (see also IP/06/375). Last year 800,000 fake medicines were seized at European borders. Most of these fake drugs are headed for the world’s poorest countries.