On 1 July, the Commission published its expected Communication “towards a renewed consensus on the enforcement of intellectual property rights: an EU action plan”. AIM welcomes the overall message of the document, being that IP is essential for Europe’s growth and competitiveness so must be enforced.
Among the 10 action points, AIM especially welcomes the inclusion of “follow the money” goals in future memoranda of understanding with supply chain intermediaries including shippers.
However, we would also encourage wider take up of more proceeds of crime legislation throughout the EU: counterfeiters are in it for the money, and with that money cross-funding ever more organised crime it is essential that we hit these criminals where it hurts – in their wallets. We also need a more strategic overview of how cybercriminals of all genres – including those selling counterfeit product and/or providing illegal content – are increasingly cross-funding their criminal activities.
Measures taken to cut off infringers’ revenue streams are clearly to be welcomed. We trust that action 6 (ensuring that consumers are reimbursed by their card providers for unwitting purchases of fakes) will include steps to ensure that consumers are not encouraged to buy fakes in the first place. Also, any reimbursement scheme must include provision that the infringer is not paid prior to the consumer’s acceptance of the goods as otherwise we risk a scenario whereby the infringer has already fled with the money, leaving the card provider with the bill and no choice but to pass on the increased cost, ultimately leading to increased consumer prices.
While very pleased to note the recognition that all means should be used to effectively dissuade and impede the entry and diffusion of IP infringing products on markets, AIM trusts that this will be appreciated in the current negotiations on transit controls within the Trade Mark Package. Likewise, while agreeing that it is important for EU customs to cooperate with their third party counterparts, such cooperation needs to be practical and strategic as well as diplomatic.
Overall, we need to remember that counterfeiting and piracy is by nature illegal: multiple small consignments have the potential for as much detriment as commercial scale cases, especially to SMEs and in terms of enforcement costs. Likewise, while cross-border cases are clearly important, care must be taken not to ignore the impact of any in-country illegal trade.
AIM looks forward to working with the institutions on the roll out of these and any other actions that will help to stem this illegal trade and afford European citizens, innovators and creators the protection they deserve.
Link to the European Commission press release.