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Brussels, 10 November 2006

2005 customs seizures of counterfeit goods – Frequently Asked Questions

(see also IP/06/1541)

Which are the most counterfeited articles?

Fake textile items are the most intercepted counterfeit product. More than 10 million of fake textiles were seized in 2005 which is an increase of more than 40% from 2004. This shows that the economic damage and loss of jobs caused by Counterfeiters should not be forgotten.

Foodstuffs and drinks revealed alarming seizures of more than 5 million objects which is an increase of more than 20 %. Goods seized included alcoholic beverages, juices, high energy drinks, tea and chocolate.

Fake medicines remain the one of the most dangerous forms of counterfeiting. A wider range of products are now being targeted, including antibiotics, cancer cure medicines, anti-cholesterol tablets and even very common items such as paracetamol.

How do counterfeit seizures in 2005 compare with previous years?

In 2005 Customs seized more than 75 million articles and handled more anti-counterfeiting cases than ever before.

26 000 cases were dealt with in 2005, which is an increase of 20% over the 2004 figure.

However, there has been a drop in the actual number of articles seized of about 25 %.

There are three areas where the drop in articles seized is significant: Cigarettes, CDs + DVDs and Toys.

However, there is an increase in fake food stuffs and related products. The number passed the 5 million mark for the first time in 2005.

Why has there been a drop in seizures in 2005?

As regards cigarettes there are a number of initiatives in China and the EU which would mean that more of this traffic is disrupted before the goods reach the EU. As to CDs and DVDs the downloading and seizures of smaller consignments of fakes appears to have had a significant impact. The third and very worrying sector concerns Children's toy's, where the drop in seizures may be due to a switch in production to other sectors where profits are even higher.

Customs are stopping more consignments of fakes but with fewer goods involved. There is pressure on customs resources as they try to control an increased number of smaller consignments.

Complex transit routes and the high quality of fakes often makes identification impossible without technical expertise. The increasing use of internet to sell fakes (mainly medicines) increases the challenge customs face.

Just to give you an idea how complex the routing is becoming, earlier this year, 350 kg of serious cure illness pharmaceuticals, which were stopped in the UK, were dispatched from China transiting through United Arab Emirates, UK to the Bahamas.

What is the most counterfeited medicine?

A wider range of products are now being targeted, including antibiotics, cancer cure medicines, anti-cholesterol tablets and even very common items such as paracetamol. Viagra however still remains the counterfeiters' favourite, whilst condoms are also widely faked

One recent case brought to our attention by the pharmaceutical industry concerns a cardio-vascular medicine. The fake discovered contained a mixture of brick dust together with the same yellow paint used to paint roads - to give it the distinctive colour of the genuine medicine – and finally finished with a coat of furniture polish to give it a nice glossy appearance

Have Customs officials already seized fake avian flu medicine?

Yes, EU Customs have already seized such medicine.

US customs authorities have also reported the seizure of such type of fake medicine.

Where did in 2005 the counterfeit goods come from?

South East Asia, generally remains the major source with China accounting for more than 60% of the number of goods seized overall. However, new transit routes continue to show up, including somewhat surprisingly Afghanistan and Guinea but also Switzerland.

Dubai continues to be an important transhipment point for fakes.

India has been reported as being an increasingly significant source of counterfeit medicines.

What is the state of play regarding the implementation of the Action Plan?

  • Targeted time limited Operational Customs Actions against Counterfeit are being launched at major ports and airports in Europe. A recently finalised Customs Action has already led to the seizure of more than 90 large maritime containers of fake products and more are expected.
  • An Anti-Counterfeit Task Force of top EU Customs Experts has been set up to improve targeted anti-counterfeit controls throughout Europe and to work with, in close co-operation with right holders, industry sectors concerned and third country experts.
  • A framework of exchange of information is being set up with a joint Business-Customs Working Group to rationalise the transmission of intelligence from rightholders to EU ports and airports and to exchange information on latest trafficking trends.
  • Amendments to the Community Customs law are in the process of adoption which will introduce an Integrated European Risk Management framework and help better target and stop high risk goods at the Community frontiers.
  • Operational co-operation with third country players, especially China and USA, is further strengthened through exchange of intelligence on latest trafficking trends and dangerous consignments.
  • The Commission will, together with Member States and key partners, seek to improve the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights protection by Customs and in particular to ensure that controls are also applied on exports, transit and transhipment movements in other regions.

Is the seizure of counterfeit products only a matter for customs authorities?

Customs have a prime role in stopping the international movement of fake goods; in fact the majority of all seizures made globally are done by Customs as first line of defence when protecting our borders.

Customs are also the only enforcement agency assigned with a specific mission under the World Trade Organisation's Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

However, it is clear that co-operation with other actors needs to be enhanced if the counterfeit problem is to be kept under control, such as cooperation with other law enforcement authorities and with business.

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