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Brussels, 9 July 2009

2008 customs detentions of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) infringing goods – Frequently Asked Questions

(see also IP/09/1106 )

How do detentions of IPR infringing goods in 2008 compare with previous years?

There has been a significant increase of 13% in the number of customs interventions involving IPR infringing goods, compared to last year. Since 2001 the number of cases has been steadily growing. In addition, the overall amount of articles detained by customs has also increased compared to last year (178 million compared to 79 million).

When compared to 2007, almost all categories show more cases where customs have intervened (the exception are accessories for clothing, shoes, computer equipment and CD/DVD).

The product categories for toys (+136%), electrical equipment (+58%), medicines (+57%), personal care products (+42%) and sports wear (+34%) all show remarkable increases.

What is the reason of the increase of detentions of IPR infringing goods in 2008?

Compared to previous years, the overall amount of articles has increased enormously, mainly due to much more articles detained in the CD/DVD/cassettes and cigarettes categories.

The most significant increases in articles detained were CD/DVD (+2300%), medicines (+118%) and cigarettes (+54%).

Which articles are the most infringed?

Clothing accessories is the category of product for which most intervention take place (55%).

In terms of number of articles detained, CD/DVD come first (79 million pieces) followed by cigarettes (42 million).

What types of medicines have been detained?

Without a doubt, medicines for erectile dysfunction (Viagra) continue to be the most popular counterfeited medicines. However, other serious medicines such as anti-cholesterol, anti-osteoporosis or medicines to control hypertension are also found as counterfeit medicines.

Where did the IPR infringing goods come from?

Overall, China remains 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.

Which means of transport are most used to import IPR infringing goods into the EU?

With regard to transport, last year’s general trends were maintained; in particular the number of cases in postal transport (24%) continued to grow strongly as well as those in road transport (21%). However, air transport remains first with 36% of the cases.

With regard to the articles detained, the overwhelming majority is transported by sea (80%) and road (11%). There were minimal amounts of detention made in connection with rail transportation, both in terms of cases and quantities.

Does the Commission have an estimation of the amount of money the trade in IPR infringing represents?

No, the Commission does not have reliable figures on this.

Is the detention of IPR infringing products only a matter for customs authorities?

Customs administrations in the EU lead enforcement activities at the external frontier, by suspending and detaining shipments that are suspected of infringing intellectual property rights. Given their role at the border, customs efforts are centred around the control at import and export of physical goods. Customs have a prime role in stopping the international movement of IPR infringing goods; in fact the majority of all detentions 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 problem of IPR infringements is to be kept under control, such as cooperation with other law enforcement authorities and with business.

Computer or internet-based piracy of copyright media, such as music, movies or software is also a significant problem, but as these activities usually have no link to the border, customs is not as involved in fighting this form of IP infringement.

In most Member States, law enforcement authorities other than Customs are assigned to control and seize IPR infringing goods within their territories, for example at open markets or where production of such goods is discovered on their territory.

How effective is the cooperation with the industry?

Given the fact that the quality of IPR infringing goods has substantially improved and more and more highly technical goods are involved, it often becomes a challenging process for customs to detect them. Input from industry becomes therefore indispensable.

The risk assessment process to select suspicious goods at the border relies heavily on the information given by industry in their applications for action. In addition to existing information on counterfeit and pirated goods, which is certainly important, it is also very important for customs to have information on production, transport and physical characteristics concerning the original goods. The Commission, in collaboration with Member States has established a manual for right holders for lodging and processing applications for action (see also DG TAXUD’s website under right holders defence ).

The growing involvement of industry is measured through the increasing numbers of application for action made in the Member States. In 2008, right holders lodged 12,866 applications for action to Customs administrations. This corresponds to 80% of the customs interventions.

What is in the agreement signed with China?

Agreement was reached with China to develop a customs action plan on IPR enforcement, the terms of which were developed and finalized before the end of 2008. The plan itself was signed on 30 January 2009. The plan concentrates on 4 key areas, namely the exchange of statistical information, the creation of a network of customs experts in key-ports, the enhancement of cooperation with other enforcement administrations and development of partnerships with business communities.

In which Member States did Customs seize the most infringing goods?

The top 10 of Member states account for 90% of the overall amount of cases and articles. 7 Member States appear in the top 10 of both cases and articles. The first Member state in terms of cases is France, in terms of articles seized or detained, Netherlands comes first.

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

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