Taxation and customs union

International cooperation

Due to technological progress and the internationalisation of trade, the infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR) has become a global phenomenon. European customs cannot act alone in reducing the number of IPR infringing goods arriving at the EU borders. The combined efforts of the customs authorities of all the countries affected by the production, distribution and final marketing of the goods are required. International cooperation is therefore an essential component of the EU's strategy for the effective enforcement of IPR.

The EU Customs Action Plan to Combat Intellectual Property Infringements for the years 2009-2012 aims at a strong international cooperation both bilaterally and in relevant international fora (WTO, World Customs Organisation, etc). The objective is to tackle trade in IPR infringing goods through an overarching approach that includes the organisation of joint initiatives, the exchange of information and the sharing of expertise.

EU-China Action Plan on IPR Customs Enforcement

The annual reports on customs detentions recorded at the external borders of the EU indicate that China is the main source country from where IPR infringing goods are shipped to the EU . Cooperation between China and the EU authorities on the enforcement of IPR is therefore paramount. As a first step, both parties signed in 2004 a Customs Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance Agreement (CCMAA). The CCMAA provided the legal basis for subsequent strengthened cooperation under the EU-China Action Plan on IPR customs enforcement, which was signed in Brussels on 30 January 2009 and has been extended until December 2012 .

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

In the framework of FTAs, the EU and its trading partners pay particular attention to the enforcement of IPR at the border. In the common interest of both parties, enforcement of IPR by their respective customs authorities is strengthened beyond TRIPs standards (see below) and the basis for cooperation between those is set out. The parties also ensure that customs action in this field is compatible with their obligations under the WTO law.

For more information on FTAs and cooperation with third countries and other organisations, please visit the International Affairs section.

Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), which came into effect in 1995, is the most comprehensive international agreement on intellectual property rights to date. The TRIPs Agreement lays down an international framework of principles, rules and disciplines dealing with international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. It provides for border control measures under its article 51 and thereafter, describing, among others, the border enforcement procedures that enable a right-holder to apply for customs action in case of suspected counterfeiting and piracy