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Intellectual property | Brussels, 28 April 2021

Counterfeit remains top priority for EU’s efforts in intellectual property protection

The European Commission published today its biennial report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in third countries.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Strengthening the protection and enforcement of EU Intellectual Property Rights in third countries is a European Commission priority. Deficiencies in the intellectual property system harm European businesses, undermining their investment and hampering the dissemination of technology and knowledge. Counterfeiting and piracy are a scourge on our economy and expose our citizens to low quality and dangerous counterfeits, such as the fake medical products that flooded the European market in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Third Country Report is part of our broader effort to protect European companies when trading outside the EU’s borders and keep EU consumers safe.

This report is part of the efforts of the European Commission to strengthen the protection and enforcement of IPR in third countries. It is based on several reports, on discussions carried out with third countries, and on an EU public consultation, which was carried out by the Directorate-General for Trade in the autumn of 2020. The report helps the Commission to update its list of "priority countries" and to focus its efforts and resources on the specific areas of concern, with the aim of improving IPR protection and enforcement worldwide. 

According to the report, China remains the Priority 1 country for the EU, because of the scale and persistence of problems in the area of IPR protection and enforcement. India, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine remain Priority 2 countries. Indonesia was removed from the group of Priority 2 countries and included in the group of Priority 3 countries, mainly due to the recent reform of its patent law. Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Thailand remain Priority 3 countries.

Both the Commission's annual report on EU Customs Enforcement of IPR [1] and the study Mapping the economic impact of trade in counterfeit and pirated goods [2] prepared by the European Union Intellectual Office (EUIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that China remains at the origin of a dominant share of counterfeit and pirated goods arriving in the EU, in terms of both value and volume. More than 80% of the seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods by EU customs authorities originate from China and Hong Kong (China).

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown that criminals quickly adapt to the new trade environment and find ways to infiltrate legitimate supply chains with counterfeit and often dangerous products. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, counterfeit and falsified products such as unproven treatments, test kits and medical equipment and supplies, e.g. masks, ventilators, or gloves, have flooded the European market.

Beyond these enforcement challenges, the report also points at deficiencies related to e.g. forced technology transfer, restrictive patentability criteria, ineffective collective right management, low level of protection of trade secrets, backlogs in patent and trademark registrations, deficiencies in the protection of new plant varieties, regulatory data and geographical indications.

Besides being a tool for the Commission to prioritise its efforts in the area of IPR protection and enforcement, the report enables right holders, in particular small and medium-size enterprises, to gain awareness of potential risks to their IP when engaging in business activities in certain third countries. It thus helps them to design appropriate business strategies. This report should also be a useful source of information for authorities in third countries. 

More information

Commission report on the protection and enforcement of IPR in third countries

More information on Intellectual property