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Λογότυπος της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής
Taxation and Customs Union

Counterfeit, piracy and other IPR violations

Customs administrations are in the frontline to enforce intellectual property rights (IPR) at the EU borders. In order to effectively carry out their task, customs need the active engagement of the right-holders themselves.

Co-operation is the most effective weapon: thanks to the information provided by the right-holders, customs may identify more easily goods suspected of infringing IPR and take the necessary action. As a right-holder, you can defend your rights by asking customs to detain goods suspected of infringing IPR. Get all info on this specific page.

A serious problem for everyone

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) have been established to ensure that creative and inventive efforts are rewarded and that investments in new and more efficient products are encouraged. They greatly stimulate the creation of jobs in today's knowledge-based economy.

Infringements of IPR are a widespread and worrying phenomenon. The reasons for the increase in rate of infringements are diverse, including the attractiveness of a 'look-alike product' at a cheap price, the ease of production of copies at minimal costs, the development of new forms of marketing such as e-commerce and social media and the growth of international trade.

IPR infringements are harmful as they reduce business and government revenues, stifle investment and innovation and hinder economic growth. They result in job losses and reduced wealth creation (Gross Domestic Product or GDP). Furthermore, IPR infringing goods risk harming consumers and the environment, as they are less likely than others to be manufactured in compliance with health and safety standards.

Trade in IPR infringing goods is a serious problem for everyone and therefore dealing with it is a serious  responsibility.

Defend your rights 

Co-operation is the most effective weapon: thanks to the information provided by the right-holders, customs may more easily identify goods suspected of infringing IPR and take the necessary action. As a right-holder, you can defend your rights by asking customs to detain goods suspected of infringing IPR. Get all info on this specific page.

Facts and figures

Every year, the European Commission published a report describing the customs seizures of articles suspected of infringing intellectual property rights (IPR) such as trademarks, copyrights and patents. Since 2020, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) publish a joint annual report giving an overview of the seizures  of articles suspected of infringing IPR in the EU’s internal market and at external borders.

For more information, please consult this page providing more facts and figures.

Play your part: don't buy fakes

Stealing the intellectual property of someone else is not a victimless crime. When you buy counterfeit goods you help traders who break the law and you may indirectly fund organised crime. You deprive the producers of genuine products of their legitimate profits and discourage innovation and creativity. You risk your own health and safety and that of your loved ones, and you indirectly harm the people employed in the production and sale of IPR infringing goods.

The customs authorities of the EU Member States are on the front line in preventing IPR infringing goods from entering the EU market. Nonetheless, the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods would not exist without consumer demand. 

Legislation

Regulation (EU) No 608/2013 concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is the applicable legislation at this moment. It specifies the range of IP Rights and infringements that are covered, contains provisions for right holders on how to ask protection to customs, determines procedures for customs to follow in case of identification of goods suspected of infringing an IPR, provides provisions for cooperation and exchange of information between customs and right holders and includes measures to ensure that the interests of legitimate traders are protected.

The European Commission published a Commission notice on customs enforcement of IPR concerning goods brought into the customs territory of the Union without being released for free circulation (see page 4). The notice clarifies the application of Regulation (EU) No 608/2013 and the trademark package (Regulation (EU) 2015/2424) with regard to goods coming from third countries without being released for free circulation, including goods in transit, through the territory of the EU.

International cooperation

Due to technological progress and the globalisation of trade, the infringement of IPR has become a global phenomenon. European customs authorities cannot act alone in reducing the number of IPR infringing goods arriving at the EU borders. Combined efforts of customs authorities of all the countries involved in the supply chain are required. International cooperation is therefore an essential component of the EU's strategy for the effective enforcement of IPR.

As the annual reports on customs detentions recorded at the external borders of the EU indicate that China and Hong Kong are the main source countries from where IPR infringing goods are shipped to the EU, the EU set up in 2009 with China Customs and in 2015 with Hong Kong Customs Action Plans on IPR Customs Enforcement.

In the framework of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), the EU and its trading partners also 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 the standards in the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) 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.