MEPs clarify rules on pirate/counterfeit goods

Rules on how customs officials confiscate, store and destroy imports of counterfeit or pirated goods that infringe intellectual property rights (IPRs) have been clarified by the European Parliament.

Imports that infringe IPRs are a growing problem in the EU, due in particular to the rising volume of goods bought by EU citizens online and shipped to them from countries outside the Union.

Customs confiscations of such goods almost doubled between 2009 and 2010, and they are costing European businesses about €250 billion in lost sales each year.

The draft regulation on customs enforcement of IPRs, which the MEPs were debating, aims to make customs procedures more effective by laying down clear rules on the storage of infringing goods, who should bear the burden of proving that they infringe IPRs, and who should pay the costs of destroying them.

It does not, however, change the rules defining an "IPR infringement".

Preliminary figures for 2010 show a 200% increase in small postal consignments confiscated by customs. The draft regulation introduces a simplified procedure to allow small consignments of suspected counterfeit or pirated goods to be destroyed more quickly.

Parliament amended the proposal to ensure that the person who would have received the goods has five days in which to object to their destruction and that buyers who bought them in good faith do not have to pay the cost of destroying them.

The Commission proposal does not define "small consignment".

MEPs agreed that it should mean three items or fewer, together weighing below 2kg and contained in one package. Goods of a non-commercial nature contained in a travellers' personal luggage will be excluded from the scope of the regulation.

The regulation also aims to clarify and strengthen rules on generic medicines in transit through the EU.

The text stresses that customs authorities must abide by the EU's international commitments to ensure that these medicines are not delayed or confiscated unless there is "clear and convincing evidence that they are intended for sale in the Union".



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