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Brussels, 9 July 2009

Customs: Commission publishes 2008 statistics of Customs actions to enforce intellectual property rights at the EU's external border

(see also MEMO/09/327 )

Statistics just published by the European Commission relating to goods infringing intellectual property rights (IPR), show for the sixth consecutive year a significant increase in customs activity. In 2008, customs registered over 49,000 cases of goods detained at the EU's external border, suspected of IPR infringements. Compared with 43,000 cases in 2007, this increase shows a further strengthening in cooperation between customs and industry, enabling customs to better target suspected shipments and to recognize IPR infringing goods. The number of articles detained more than doubled in 2008 to 178 million, of which about 20 million were potentially dangerous to the health and safety of European consumers.

László Kovács Commissioner for Taxation and Customs said "Combating trade of IPR infringing goods remains a top priority for customs administrations in the EU. The 2009-2012 Customs Action Plan, endorsed by the Council in March, is particularly welcome as it responds to the main challenges identified by customs, namely the potential dangerous nature of counterfeit goods, the links to organised crime, the globalisation of the issue and more recently the increasing problems posed to customs by the sale of counterfeits over the internet.”

The 2008 statistics show that:

  • Customs detentions have never been so high, with an increase of almost 13% – over 49 000 cases registered, compared to 43,000 in 2007.

  • Cooperation with industry has continued to develop, with nearly 13,000 applications (10,000 in 2007) filled in by the industry to request customs actions in cases where there is a suspicion that products are infringing an IPR. This represents 80% of the customs interventions in 2008.

  • There was a sharp increase in 2008 in the actual number of IPR infringing goods detained by customs – 178 million compared to 79 million in 2007.

  • In terms of cases, the most significant increases can be seen in the following product categories:

  • toys: +136%

  • electrical equipment: +58%

  • medicines: +57 %

  • personal care products: +42%;

  • The number of articles detained increased even more significantly, in particular in the following categories

- DVDs: +2600%

- medicines: + 118%

- cigarettes: + 54%

  • China was the main source country for IPR infringing articles with 54% of the total amount. However, in certain product categories, other countries were the main source, notably Indonesia for foodstuff and beverages, the United Arab Emirates for cigarettes and India for medicines.

  • CD/DVD was the top category of articles detained with a total amount of 79 million, which accounted for 44% of the entire amount, followed by cigarettes (23%) and clothing and accessories (10%)


EU legislation (Council Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003) provides for Customs to temporarily detain any goods if they suspect that these goods infringe any intellectual property right, including patents. Under the customs legislation, Customs authorities do not decide whether goods are infringing IPR. The general procedure is to detain goods and subsequently inform the right holder of the detention. It is then up to the right holder to pursue the matter through a court, where appropriate, under national provisions. Only a national court has the power to establish if the goods infringe any Intellectual Property Right and, therefore, if they should be seized and possibly destroyed. However, under certain circumstances and with the agreement of both parties, the goods may be expeditiously destroyed, without recourse to a court.

If the right-holder does not initiate court procedures within the deadline determined by the customs legislation, the goods are released by customs.

For more information on the 2008 Customs seizures of counterfeit goods see:

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