Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights


In the face of the rising counterfeiting and piracy across Europe, the Commission is proposing a historical but controversial Directive that would - for the first time ever - force member states to adjust their penal codes and establish harmonised criminal sanctions against IPR-infringers.

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Intellectual property infringements – involving anything from pirate music and films to fake handbags or car pieces and counterfeit medicines – have increased dramatically over the past decade, with a 1,600% rise in the volume of counterfeit goods, causing the loss of 125,000 jobs. 

Economic losses related to counterfeiting are estimated at around €500 billion per year through lost business opportunities and tax revenues, and some fake products also present a serious health threat. 

The protection of intellectual property is governed by various international conventions to which the EU has signed up to, such as 

In order to bring itself into line with these international commitments, the EU adopted the Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (also labeled the 'IPR enforcement directive'), in March 2004. 

This directive sought to consolidate the fragmented body of EU legislation on intellectual property - i.e. disparate measures on copyrights, trade marks, authors' rights, designs, counterfeiting and piracy, computer programmes, etc - to create more clarity and predictability for European businesses.

It also gave national authorities increased powers to pursue infringers and obtain compensation for rights-holders. 

However, as the counterfeiting and piracy phenomenon grows, particularly with the rise of China - the largest source of fake goods - the Commission says additional measures are necessary.