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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 5 August 2013

Protecting Intellectual Property Rights: Customs detain €1 billion worth of fake goods at EU borders in 2012

EU Customs detained almost 40 million products suspected of violating intellectual property rights (IPR) in 2012, according to the Commission's annual report on customs actions to enforce IPR. Although this is less than the 2011 figure, the value of the intercepted goods is still high, at nearly €1 billion. Today’s report also gives statistics on the type, provenance and transport method of counterfeit products detained at the EU's external borders. Cigarettes accounted for a large number of interceptions (31%), miscellaneous goods (e.g. bottles, lamps, glue, batteries, washing powder) were the next largest category (12%), followed by packaging materials (10%). Postal and courier packages accounted for around 70% of customs interventions in 2012, with 23% of the detentions in postal traffic concerning medicines.

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-fraud and Audit said: “Customs is the EU's first line of defence against fake products which undermine legal businesses. Today's report shows the intensity and importance of the work being done by Customs in this field. I will continue to push for even greater protection of intellectual property rights in Europe, through our work with international partners, the industry and Member States."

In terms of where the fake goods were coming from, China continued to be the main source. Other countries, however, were the top source for specific product categories, such as Morocco for foodstuffs, Hong Kong for CD/DVDs and other tobacco products (mainly electronic cigarettes and liquid fillings for them), and Bulgaria for packaging materials. Around 90% of all detained cases were either destroyed or a court case was initiated to determine the infringement.


As the EU’s 2020 Strategy underlines, the protection of IPR is a cornerstone of the EU economy and a key driver for its further growth in areas such as research, innovation and employment. Effective IPR enforcement is also essential for health and safety, as certain counterfeited products (such as foodstuffs, body-care articles and children’s toys) which are produced in an unregulated environment can pose a serious threat to citizens.

EU Customs play a crucial role in stopping products which are suspected of violating intellectual property rights from entering the EU. Since 2000, the Commission has been publishing an annual report on the activities of customs in relation to enforcing intellectual property rights. These reports, based on data transmitted by the national customs administrations to the Commission, are a valuable input to the analysis of IPR infringement in the Union by customs and for EU institutions like the Observatory on infringements of intellectual property rights.

In June 2013, a new Regulation on IPR enforcement at customs was adopted (see MEMO/11/332 and MEMO/13/527). This reinforces the rules for customs authorities to enforce intellectual property rights.

On 10 December 2012, a new EU Customs Action Plan was adopted by Council to combat intellectual property rights infringements for the years 2013 to 2017 (see MEMO/12/967). The strategic objectives of this Action Plan are the following:

  • Effectively implementing and monitoring the new EU legislation on customs enforcement of IPR;

  • Tackling trade of IPR infringing goods throughout the international supply chain;

  • Tackling major trends in trade of IPR infringing goods;

  • Strengthening cooperation with the European Observatory on infringements of IPRs

  • and law enforcement authorities.

For the full report, see:

See also: MEMO/13/738

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