Commission extends fight against piracy beyond EU borders

European Union

The European Commission has announced its strategy for the enforcement of IP rights in third countries. This comes after the adoption of initiatives relating to the enforcement of IP rights within the European Union (see Parliament adopts IP rights enforcement directive) and at its borders (see New rules make it tougher to get infringing goods across borders).

In July 2003 the commission published the results of a survey of the enforcement of IP rights in third countries. The survey took its starting point from the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), which provides for a comprehensive scheme for the protection of all kinds of IP rights. Most World Trade Organization members have implemented the minimum standards for protection, although the least developed countries are not obliged to do so until 2006 at the earliest. The survey, however, showed that the enforcement was not effective and therefore new initiatives were necessary to protect the interests of EU rights holders.

The new strategy contains six main points:

  • The commission will identify the most problematic countries or regions, initially on the basis of the 2003 survey. The commission intends to carry out such surveys periodically.

  • The commission will employ the remedies available under the TRIPs Agreement and seek new initiatives within the framework of the agreement. Further, the commission will look into implementing the provisions relative to IP rights protection included in the numerous bilateral agreements that the European Union has entered into with the countries at issue.

  • The commission will increase political dialogue with its trading partners - both the countries that are the source of the infringing goods and the countries that are in a situation similar to that of the European Union, such as Japan and the United States.

  • The commission will provide technical assistance to the countries where IP right enforcement is insufficient. The commission will provide assistance when requested, and will also seek to convince such countries of the importance and benefits of improved IP right enforcement.

  • The commission will increase the awareness among EU businesses of the Trade Barrier Regulation mechanism. Under this scheme, companies may lodge complaints with the commission about violations of the TRIPs or bilateral agreements entered into by the European Union with third countries.

  • The commission will seek to improve public-private partnerships, for example by using the experience and knowledge in anti-counterfeiting built up by companies and associations. Further, the commission will increase the awareness among rights holders of existing mechanisms such as the Innovation Relay Centres and the IPR Help-Desk. The commission will also (i) create local IP networks consisting of companies, associations and chambers of commerce, and (ii) actively support these networks.

The commission stresses that it is not a part of the strategy to impose solutions or use the same approach with all countries. Its approach will be flexible and will focus on positive and constructive efforts.

Michael Hopp, Plesner, Copenhagen

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