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Intellectual property | Brussels, 7 December 2018

Watch List: Commission sets sights on counterfeit and piracy hotspots

The Commission’s new Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List, published today, names websites and physical marketplaces outside the EU that are reported to engage in, facilitate or benefit from substantial counterfeiting and piracy. These activities undermine intellectual property rights of EU companies and creators, harm businesses and jobs and risk consumers’ health and safety.

The Watch List aims to encourage the operators of these marketplaces, local enforcement authorities and governments to take action to crack down on intellectual property abuse. It also aims at making EU citizens aware of the environmental, product safety and other risks of purchasing from problematic markets.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “Intellectual property infringements are a scourge on the European economy, decreasing investment and government revenues, and killing jobs in our creative and innovative industries. They also pose a significant risk to our citizens who often simply do not know whether what they are buying is safe or not. Furthermore, the link between counterfeiting and organised crime poses a major threat to our society. This Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List is part of our broader effort to ensure that European companies can operate on a level playing field when trading outside the EU’s borders, and that EU consumers are safe.”

The Watch List has four focus areas: websites providing copyright-protected content, e-commerce platforms, online pharmacies as well as physical marketplaces. A specific chapter is devoted to online pharmacies in order to highlight the growing problem of fake medicines sold on the internet and the health risks to citizens.
The list is the result of the input received during a public consultation process in which respondents reported a number of websites and physical marketplaces that allegedly engage in, facilitate or benefit from counterfeiting and piracy. The Watch List pays particular attention to online markets.

According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the OECD, trade in counterfeit and pirated products amounts annually to around €338 billion worldwide. The European Union is particularly affected, with counterfeit and pirated products amounting up to around 5% of all imports or as much as €85 billion a year.

Counterfeit products can be found in pharmaceutical, health and beauty products, in the engineering and technology sectors, with non-genuine car parts and counterfeit machinery; as well as in farming, with counterfeit pesticides that often contain toxic substances that may contaminate soil, water and food. In addition, piracy is a huge problem for the EU’s creative industries. Illegally available content undermines creators, artists and other content producers by depriving them of the income they need to sustain their work.


This initiative is part of the Commission's strategy announced in the 2017 Communication "A balanced Intellectual Property enforcement system responding to today's societal challenges". The Communication presented the whole range of measures to ensure that intellectual property rights (IPR) of European companies are well protected in the EU and beyond. The Commission's approach is, in particular, to target those involved in commercial-scale infringements of intellectual property rights depriving them of the revenue flows that make their activity lucrative. The Commission also strengthens its efforts to fight infringements at a global scale by promoting best practices and stepping up co-operation with countries outside the EU.

The Commission will update the Watch List every two years. It will use the Watch List to continue the cooperation with EU's trading partners in the framework of intellectual property rights dialogues and working groups and also in the framework of the ongoing technical cooperation programmes in China, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The Commission will also monitor the measures and actions taken by local authorities in relation to the listed marketplaces as well as the measures and actions taken by the operators and marketplace owners to curb intellectual property infringements.

The Watch List is not an exhaustive list of the reported marketplaces and service providers and does not purport to make findings of legal violations. Nor does it provide the Commission services' analysis of the state of protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the countries connected with the listed marketplaces and service providers.

A general analysis of the protection and enforcement of IPR in third countries can be found in the Commission services' separate biennial Report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in countries outside the EU, the latest of which was published on 21 February 2018. 

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