The Internet is a factor for economic growth that has emerged as a major communication, creation and distribution channel. However, it has also facilitated illegitimate commerce and allowed the sale of counterfeit goods and the piracy of works on a much wider scale, to the detriment of consumers and legitimate business.
In 2013, EU customs authorities seized 36 million fake articles, mainly medicines, personal accessories, foodstuffs and beverages. Of these seizures, 72 per cent were related to postal and courier traffic. These items had almost exclusively been ordered through the Internet, which confirms the key role played by the Internet in facilitating intellectual property (IP) infringements. The challenge is particularly serious not only for IP rights owners whose rights are infringed but also for consumers as their confidence in online transactions may falter if this trend is not countered effectively.
Reconciling IP and the Internet has become a crucial issue for debate. In response, OHIM, through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, Europol and Eurojust are co-hosting a major conference in Alicante, from 5 to 7 November 2014, to help Member States and third countries deal with this phenomenon and to strengthen cooperation between agencies in this field.
The conference will bring together experienced investigators from customs and police, public prosecutors, private stakeholders - such as brand protection managers from industry - policy makers and representatives from the judiciary and from Europol, Eurojust and OHIM. They will exchange ideas and discuss how IP and the Internet can be mutually beneficial to consumers and legitimate business and what models and best practices can be developed to foster this balance and further combat counterfeiting and piracy.
Paul Maier, Director of the Observatory, said: "it is essential to deepen the understanding of how the online environment interacts with IP infringements. Another critical challenge in my view is linked to the fact that organised crime which is operating at a global level is increasingly active also in the counterfeit business. OHIM, through the Observatory decided to team up with Europol to support enforcement activities related to online IPR infringements. We are presently finalising a joint assessment report of the involvement and modus operandi of criminal organisations in relation to IP infringements, to be published early next year".
Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director of Europol, said: "Intellectual property theft poses a threat to the international economy and preventing this kind of crime is a priority for Europol, and key to success is linking the efforts of the private sector with the efforts of international law enforcement. Cooperation is more important than ever due to the borderless structure of the Internet and its role as a major facilitator of IP crime."
Michèle Coninsx, President of Eurojust, stated: 'The level of information available on IP legislation to prosecutors engaged in IP law is not complete and may never be. Differences exist in legislation; language barriers present an additional hurdle; and the advent of the Internet as an effective method of enabling IP crime, particularly piracy and counterfeiting, adds to the many issues we face today. All of these factors lead to inconsistent outcomes. This is why Eurojust exists: to smooth over these differences and work like oil in the cross-border judicial machinery; facilitate contacts between the authorities and find common ground in a continuously changing legislative landscape.'
NOTE TO EDITORS
The European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights was established in 2009 to support the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights and help combat the growing threat of IP infringements in Europe. It was transferred by Regulation on June 5, 2012 to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), which is the official trademarks and designs office of the European Union, headquartered in Alicante, Spain, since 1994.
European Observatory on Infringements of intellectual property rights (OHIM)
Tel. +34 96 513 9735
Oficina de Armonización del Mercado Interior (OAMI)
Laura Casado Fernandez
Tel. +34 96 513 8934
Tel: +34 96 513 7676
Europol is the European law enforcement agency of the European Union.
Søren Kragh Pedersen
Chief of Media and Public Relations - Corporate Communications
Tel: +31 70 302 5001
Eurojust is the European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit.
Head of Communications and External Relations
Tel: +31 70 412 5508