As the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy underlines, the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a cornerstone of the EU economy and a key driver for its further growth in areas such as research, innovation and employment. Effective IPR enforcement is also essential for health and safety, as certain counterfeited products (such as foodstuffs, body-care articles and children’s toys) which are produced in an unregulated environment can pose a serious threat to citizens.
EU Customs play a crucial role in stopping products which violate intellectual property rights from entering the EU. A number of actions are being carried out by the Commission to strengthen Customs’ ability to combat such trade. On 24 May 2011, the Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation on customs enforcement of IPR, as part of a comprehensive package of IPR measures (see IP/11/ 630, MEMO/11/327).
Good cooperation with trading partners can also significantly help in preventing the export of IPR infringing goods to the EU. In 2009, the EU signed an Action Plan with China which specifically focuses on enhancing cooperation in IPR customs enforcement (IP/09/193). In 2010, this Action Plan was extended until the end of 2012 (IP/10/1079).
Cooperation with industry is also very important to ensure that goods which violate IPR can be properly identified. Businesses can request customs action where they suspect that their intellectual property rights are being violated, and the information provided by industry helps customs to better target their controls. The Commission has established a manual for right holders, to help them to lodge such requests.
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