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2015 Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights

The annual publication of the result of customs actions at the EU external borders provides an opportunity to measure the scale of customs actions to enforce IPR. The enforcement of IPR by customs is a priority for the Commission and the Member States. For many years customs administrations in the Union have been known for their high standard of enforcement of IPR. In 2014, customs authorities made over 95.000 detentions, consisting of a total of 35,5 million articles. The domestic retail value of the detained articles represented over 600 million euros.

This report contains statistical information about the detentions made under customs procedures and includes data on the description, quantities and value of the goods, their provenance, the means of transport and the type of intellectual property right that may have been infringed. New in this year’s report is the number of procedures that were initiated by customs. Each detention is referred to as a ‘case’ that may contain one or more articles. Each case may contain articles of different product categories and from different right-holders. The statistics are established by the Commission, based on the data transmitted by the Member States administrations, in accordance with the relevant EU customs legislation.

The total number of cases (each case representing an interception by customs) rose in 2014 to an all-time high, with an increase of 10% compared to 2013. Each case covers a certain amount of individual articles that can vary from 1 to several millions and can cover different categories of goods and different right-holders. The persistently high number of cases can be explained by the high number of cases in postal and courier traffic resulting from internet sales. The new procedure on small consignments, where goods can be destroyed when the right-holder has asked customs authorities to apply this procedure, appears to have led to an increase of detentions in 2014. This suggests that, if applied for, the procedure fulfils its purpose, namely the swift destruction of goods shipped in small consignments by post or express courier with a significant reduction in administrative burden for customs authorities and right-holders.

China is by far the main country of provenance (i.e. 80%) of suspected IPR infringing goods were coming from at the moment of the detention, and which were not released. As in former years Hong Kong, China, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and India appear in the ‘top 10’. Peru appears this year due to a large detention of fruit and Malaysia due to several detentions of mobile phone accessories. With regard to the countries of provenance in relation to value, China and Hong Kong, China account for 83% followed by Panama with a share of less than 4%. Several detentions of expensive watches from Panama were made in 2014 which explains the rise of Panama to the “top 3”.

Cases involving passenger traffic relate to goods brought into the EU by passengers in amounts considered to be of a commercial nature, rather than for private use. The ratio between the number of cases of goods suspected of infringing an IP right found in freight and in passenger traffic remains around 97% and 3% respectively. As in the past years postal, air and express transport remain the most important means of transport in number of cases detained (reflecting the rise in online sales and small consignments), whereas sea transport by container is the main transport modality in number of articles.