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The enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights outside the EU matters because the sale of fake goods around the world erodes the sales of EU exporters and in the case of faulty products, can erode brand value. The holders of intellectual property rights need access to effective international remedies and a solid and predictable legal framework.

Enforcement issues in a nutshell

  • The OECD estimates international trade in counterfeit and pirated products was worth up to US$ 250 billion in 2007 (excluding domestic market and internet sales). Other sources claim the losses are closer to $ 650 billion a year and that 2.5 million jobs are lost due to counterfeiting and piracy in G20 countries.
  • There is a rise of counterfeit goods coming into the EU. In 2011, more than 91,000 detention cases were registered by Customs: an increase of 15% compared to 2010. This increase totally comes from air, express and postal traffic, as a result of the growth of the e-commerce market.
  • Counterfeit goods can also lead to a loss of customs revenues. A Frontier Economics study estimated that counterfeiting and piracy may cost G20 governments and consumers over $120 billion every year, with $77.5 billion of this from tax revenue losses, $25 billion in increased costs of crime, $18.1 billion in the economic cost of deaths resulting from counterfeiting and $125 million for the additional cost of health services caused by dangerous counterfeit products.

EU trade policy and enforcement of intellectual property rights

The EU's 2004 'Strategy for the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Third Countries' sets the framework to fight intellectual property right infringement outside the EU. The implementation of this strategy was assessed in a study published in 2010, and a public hearing was held in 2011. In 2014, the Commission published a revised Strategy.

The way forward on EU enforcement

The Commission regularly conducts surveys on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The latest survey was conducted in 2010 following similar surveys in 2008 and 2006. The outcomes of this assessment are set forth in a Commission Staff Working Document of February 2013 and in individual country reports (Argentina, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey & Vietnam).

  • The report is a valuable tool for businesses, in particular for small and medium sized businesses, by raising the profile of potential risks when trading with certain countries outside the EU.
  • This assessment also helps the EU define certain countries where the protection and/or enforcement of intellectual property are detrimental to EU interests.

The priority countries for the EU to strengthen its cooperation on intellectual property are: 

  1. China
  2. India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey
  3. Argentina1, Brazil2, Canada, Israel, Korea2, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia2, Thailand, Ukraine2, USA, Vietnam.

Compared to the 2009 list, Mexico has been added, Thailand has moved from category 2 to 3, and India has moved from category 3 to 2.

  1. Countries in which the deficiencies identified may justify a listing in a higher category in future IPR Reports if they are not adequately addressed in the short term.
  2. Substantial improvements have been noted in these countries. The intellectual property environment will be closely monitored, with a view to reassessing the status of these countries.