EU Releases Communication on Enhanced IP Enforcement for its Internal Market

16 September 2009

The European Commission recently adopted new practical, non-legislative measures to complement the existing internal legal framework on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs). The communication - "Enhancing the enforcement of intellectual property rights in the internal market" - is meant to promote collaboration between the private sector, national authorities and consumers. The European Union hopes the new communication will help the bloc's 27 member nations clamp down on counterfeiting and piracy.

"Intellectual property rights encourage innovation and creativity which results in an essential cycle of business development, knowledge, further innovation and employment," said Charlie McCreevy, the EU's Internal Market and Services Commissioner. "Unfortunately, there are always those who will seek to undermine honest intentions. We need to stop this dangerous trend not by more legislation, but by mobilising stronger collaboration helping us to fight back."

The communication calls for the creation of a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, an initiative that would encourage stakeholders to collect, analyse and evaluate data so that they might share best practices and produce comprehensive information on the extent of counterfeiting and piracy in the EU.

The communication also calls for the appointment of new National Coordinators, who would help to "synchronise" the enforcement of intellectual property rights and ensure more effective information exchange among the EU's various national administrative authorities. Finally, the new document encourages stakeholders to build coalitions and develop "collaborative voluntary arrangements "to fight infringements of IPRs, in particular by tackling the sale of counterfeited goods over the internet.

The communication is part of the Commission's broader "IPR Strategy for Europe," an initiative adopted in 2008 and that is based on a previous European Council resolution. At the global level, the EU is participating in negotiations towards an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and is implementing the EU-China Plan of Action for increased customs collaboration. The communication makes note of the EU's efforts on both fronts.

Although the communication makes no specific mention of recent European customs seizures of generic medicines in transit between non-EU countries, efforts to ‘synchronise' the enforcement of intellectual property rights and ensure more effective information sharing could be of relevance to such seizures. The effects of the seizures on access to medicines have caused concern among developing countries and health NGOs, which have raised the issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Enhanced cross-border cooperation between authorities needs to be improved to ensure consistent IPR enforcement at the borders and across the EU," says EC spokesman in Geneva Sergio Balibrea in this context.

Several news reports in recent weeks have indicated that India is seriously considering taking the matter to the WTO dispute settlement procedure.

ICTSD reporting.

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