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Algirdas Šemeta

EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud

"Enforcement of IPR by Customs: Stronger, clearer and updated rules"

Press Conference on Enforcement of IPR by Customs

Brussels, 24 may 2011

Good afternoon,

Thank you, Michel Barnier for setting out the new package of measures concerning Intellectual Property Rights, or IPR.

The Crucial role of customs

This morning the Commission adopted a proposal for new customs legislation on IPR border enforcement.

Customs play a crucial role in enforcing IPR. They are ideally placed, at EU borders, to protect citizens and legitimate businesses intercepting goods even before they enter the EU. When IPR infringing goods are intercepted by customs a single legal action may be sufficient to enforce IPR for the whole shipment. Later in the supply chain, once the shipment is disaggregated, it could require hundreds or thousands of legal actions.

Today's proposal will further strengthen the ability of customs to tackle the trade in IPR infringing goods.

Why do we need to revise the legislation ?

International trade in IPR infringing goods is a growing problem. In 2010, customs intercepted over 79,000 suspect shipments involving over 100 million articles. This is nearly twice as many cases as in 2009. It amounts to more than 200 interventions per day.

I will present the full 2010 report on statistics of EU actions to enforce IPR in the coming weeks, as soon as it will be ready.

Clearer, Stronger, More up to date

Today, the intention is to make IPR enforcement legislation stronger, clearer and more up to date.

  • Clearer

Our proposal will clarify the role of customs in IPR enforcement by streamlining the procedures.

In particular, it makes clear that the regulation is of a procedural nature and does not create new rights for right holders.

This clarification provides a solution to the dispute with India and Brazil over medicines in transit. This remains a sensitive issue and the EU's commitment towards access to medicines is reiterated. When generic medicines cross the EU territory on their way to developing countries, customs should only act if it is likely that they are in fact destined to the EU market.

The proposal also sets out clear roles and responsibilities for the right holders and owners of the goods.

  • Stronger

Intellectual property is only protected if IPR are enforced properly. Where customs are able to offer this protection, I believe they should.

We therefore propose to widen the scope for customs to control against IPR infringing goods, by including additional infringements and protected rights. For example, customs will be able to act in case of illegal parallel trade and lookalike trademark infringements, and more complex rights such as topographies of semiconductor.

  • More up to date

60% of all cases of interceptions last year concerned postal traffic. In fact, from 2009 to 2010, the number of such cases tripled.

We think these may result from consumers ordering over the internet, often unaware that they are buying fakes. We therefore propose a specific procedure for small cases where the goods are considered to be counterfeit or pirated.

Under this procedure consumers can very easily abandon the goods for destruction. This will avoid them facing cumbersome legal procedures on top of the deception of having bought fakes.

Proper enforcement of IPR is necessary for the integrity of the Internal market.

Effective enforcement is an essential element of a robust IPR system and IPR are fundamental to the EU economy, stimulating research, investment and employment. This is a cornerstone in the IPR strategy.

Effective enforcement of IPR by customs requires raising awareness of consumers, effective cooperation with right holders and international partners.

For instance, the protection of IPR is a key challenge in the EU's relations with China. China remains the main source of IPR infringing goods and in parallel to the legislative proposal, we are actively engaged in cooperation with the Chinese authorities.


Let me end up saying that Europe has talented creators. But Europe has also to protect their works from malicious traders. I firmly believe that this proposal provides for a clear response to those challenges that right holders and customs authorities face every day.

Thank you for your attention and I stand ready for any question that you may have.

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