Committee requests changes to piracy directive

European Union

The European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market has issued a report on the draft directive on the enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights, known as the piracy directive. The directive, which was proposed by the European Commission on January 30 2003, aims to harmonize national laws on the enforcement of IP rights and to combat counterfeiting and piracy in the single market. The committee called for the following changes:

  • The scope of the directive in the area of civil and administrative measures should be extended to all infringements of IP rights, whereas the commission's proposal was limited to infringements for commercial purposes or where an infringement causes significant harm to the rights holder.

  • The directive should have a minimalist provision on criminal penalties. The committee hoped that recent and forthcoming developments on this front (eg, a ruling of the European Court of Justice on a case on environmental liability) will eventually make it possible to introduce criminal sanctions at a later stage. Furthermore, the committee emphasized the fact that criminal penalties should only apply to serious infringements and the judicial authorities should take due account of each individual case, especially of the intentional or unintentional character of the infringement, when choosing penalties.

  • The rights holders' right of information on the origin of litigious goods should be extended to all alleged infringements, thereby not limiting the scope of the provision to infringements for commercial purposes. While the courts will have to take into account the rules on data protection, they should also be able to order internet service providers to hand over relevant information on the origin of the infringing goods to rights holders.

  • The commission should consider measures to counter the problem of look-alike products that do not infringe any IP rights but mislead consumers and could possibly endanger public health.

The directive is to be adopted in a co-decision procedure between the European Parliament and the European Council. The next hearings are scheduled for February 9.

Julia Meuser and Beatrice Stange, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hamburg

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