Sales of counterfeit cosmetics, perfumes, and personal care items throughout the EU deprive legitimate businesses, notably small businesses and retail outlets, of significant revenue each year and bear important employment consequences. According to an OHIM report published last March, this economic loss results in the direct loss of more than 50 000 jobs and is estimated at almost EUR 5 billion, representing almost 8% of the sector’s sales. For luxury goods, particularly watches and jewelry, the social and economic impact of counterfeiting is expected to be even higher given the size of the sector.
Fighting Intellectual Property (IP) crime and ensuring effective enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are therefore key challenges in sustaining jobs and growth in the European economy, while safeguarding consumers against dangerous and substandard products and tackling the low risk/high revenue illegal activities of criminal organizations.
In that perspective, OHIM, through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, Europol and Eurojust, together with experienced investigators from customs and police, public prosecutors, private stakeholders - such as brand protection managers from industry – and policy makers, are debating best practice and new cooperation opportunities to tackle IP crime. The event, part of a series of similar events targeting various sectors, is co-hosted by these three EU bodies in Alicante, from 3 to 5 June, and provides an opportunity to reinforce operational ties between enforcement authorities and businesses, to identify bottlenecks and highlight new areas of cooperation in the fight against counterfeiting in the cosmetics and luxury goods sectors.
These discussions have been complemented by the creation of a European Intellectual Property Prosecutors Network (EIPPN) covering Member states with the involvement of Norway and the USA. The objective of the EIPPN is to share knowledge and expertise to reinforce the collective investigating and prosecuting capacity to address cross-border violations of IPR. Creating this network paves the way for a strategic cooperation agreement between Eurojust and OHIM to expand existing collaboration in the support of European prosecutors working with cases concerning violations of IPR.
António Campino, President of OHIM, commented: ‘With the support of the Observatory’s unique collaborative platform, OHIM is determined to facilitate the building of operational bridges between police forces, prosecutors, customs authorities and provide opportunities for new policy considerations. Strategic cooperation with Eurojust adds to our existing close cooperation with Europol, in line with the mandate of the Observatory to provide objective data, raise awareness of the damage caused by counterfeiting and piracy as well as to develop best practice and cross-border cooperation’.
The Hungarian national member and Contact Point of Eurojust, László Venczlsaid: I very much welcome the efforts being made by OHIM to strengthen collaboration between our organizations. Cross-border crimes need cross-border solutions. Therefore, to adopt a truly joined up approach is necessary. The discussions we are engaged in are certainly another successful example of cross-border cooperation in the fight against organized crime’.
Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director of Operations at Europol, said: "Sophisticated counterfeiters are nowadays able to produce products that are hard to distinguish from the genuine ones, and the best way to tackle those criminals is via an effective exchange of intelligence with our partners. Close cooperation between business and law enforcement is needed to challenge the criminal organizations that are exploiting the intellectual property of others, and this coalition of three parties combining efforts is a great example of the type of strategic alliance required."
NOTES TO EDITOR
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.
Europol is the European law enforcement agency of the European Union.
Eurojust is the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit. Based in The Hague, it is a body of the European Union established in 2002 with the goal of stimulating and improving the coordination of investigations and prosecutions and cooperation between the Member States’ competent national authorities in relation to serious cross-border (organised) crime.
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