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European Union: Increase in Counterfeit Goods

(Aug. 1, 2012) On July 24, 2012, the European Commission, in its annual report, released statistics indicating an increase in counterfeit goods entering the European Union. In 2011, national Customs authorities detained close to 115 million products deemed as potentially infringing intellectual property rights, including copyright, trademark, and patent, compared to 103 million such products in 2010, an increase of close to 15%. (Press Release, RAPID, Protecting Intellectual Property Rights: EU Customs Detain over 100 Million Fake Goods at EU Borders, EUROPA (July 24, 2012).)

The majority of detained items were counterfeit medicines (24%), followed by packaging materials (21%) and cigarettes (18%). A worrisome trend, according to the report, is that products intended for personal hygiene and other items that could potentially affect the health and safety of consumers accounted for a total of 28.6% of the total amount of detained goods, compared to 14.5% in 2010. (Id.)

China continues to be the main culprit as a source of counterfeit goods, accounting for 73% of all goods. To bring an end to this practice, in 2009 the EU signed an Action Plan with China that stresses cooperation between the two trade partners. The Action Plan is valid until 2012. Other countries engaged in exporting counterfeit goods to the EU are Turkey, which mainly exports fake foodstuffs; Panama, alcoholic drinks; Thailand, soft drinks; and Hong Kong, mobile phones. (Id.)

The EU Member States are required to gather statistics on detained and potentially counterfeit items on the basis of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1891/2004 of 21 October 2004 Laying down Provisions for the Implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003 Concerning Customs Action Against Goods Suspected of Infringing Certain Intellectual Property Rights and the Measures to Be Taken Against Goods Found to Have Infringed Such Rights (OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (L 328) 16).