EU Commission outlines new steps against counterfeiting

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With a set of new initiatives, the European Commission now wants to provide greater support to stakeholders and member states in the fight against counterfeiting. One element is the use of artificial intelligence, to strengthen cooperation and provide better support for SMEs in particular.

In March, the European Commission has adopted a new Recommendation to combat counterfeiting – also known as the EU Toolbox. The planned measures are intended to provide for better collaboration between rights holders, service providers, and law enforcement authorities and to promote modern technologies in brand protection. In addition, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) is to play a key role in the promoting, implementing, and monitoring of these proposals.

//“The Recommendation announced today underlines the extensive work done by the EUIPO Observatory in the area of IP enforcement and represents a clear mandate to continue working against counterfeiting, with a particular focus on digital enforcement. We stand ready to support the Commission on this initiative”.
João Negrão, Executive Director, EUIPO

The recommendations roughly cover five areas. For example, the Commission aims to ensure more effective collaboration by appointing a contact person for intellectual property issues and extending use of the EUIPO Enforcement Portal. In addition, social media and domain providers are to contribute more to combating counterfeiting. Also, stronger enforcement of IP rights is to be facilitated by possibly imposing more severe penalties for major infringements and making the disposal of counterfeits faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly.

Two other areas addressed are securing the future and increasing awareness of brand protection topics. This is to be achieved, for example, through the increased use of AI systems, including blockchain technology, and by integrating intellectual property regulations into the national curricula of police, customs, and public prosecutors. Finally, member states should communicate more about counterfeiting and inform the general public.

Lastly, the recommendations cover some brand protection tools specifically designed for small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs). For example, they should receive a voucher for an IP Scan Enforcement, allowing them to take advantage of a free initial consultation with experts on how to enforce their intellectual property rights. A set of tools to prevent cyber theft is also to be developed. This new toolkit will provide training and materials to help SMEs protect themselves against cyber‑attacks. The Commission considers SMEs to be particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting and assumes that they are more likely to fail as a result of counterfeiting and IP misuse than larger companies.

The current recommendations build on an intellectual property action plan published by the Commission in 2020, in which it committed to better combat counterfeiting. Intellectual property rights also play a major economic role in the European Union, according to the Commission: in the bloc, around 50% of gross domestic product (GDP) and around 40% of jobs are accounted for by activities in this area. The Commission will now monitor the adopted EU Toolbox over the next three years and then decide on any additional measures.

Sources: European Commission (press release // fact sheet), EUIPO

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