Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg
The EU faces a high number of intellectual property rights infringements, whereas the volume and financial value of these infringements are alarming, as reported by the Commission in its report on the application of the Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights; in spite of the small reduction in the number of packages suspected of infringing intellectual property rights, customs authorities noted as many as 87 000 incidents of such abuses in 2013, while the value of the 36 million articles seized is estimated at more than EUR 768 million.
The placing on the market of goods that are counterfeit, uncertified and not in compliance with EU standards may be harmful to consumers’ health and lives. There is a certain level of tolerance among Europeans for the idea that IPR infringements could be considered legitimate, especially among the young generation and entrepreneurial start-up companies. There is a need to redouble efforts to combat the illegal trade in counterfeit goods, and no one should make a profit out of IPR infringements.
Believes that all actors in the supply chain have a role to play in the fight against IPR infringement and should be involved in this process; stresses that an approach involving all actors should be developed both in the online and in the offline context; believes that fundamental rights need to be balanced for this to be successful as measures that impact fundamental rights cannot be undertaken voluntarily by commercial operators, but need a legal basis and judicial oversight.
Takes the view as well that opportunities for infringement should not be created, and that business models should be reconsidered by the industry in certain sectors; feels, furthermore, that adequate safeguards should be taken in respect of copyright-protected goods. Takes the view that extensive intermediary liability regimes threaten the development of new business models and a free and open internet.
Insists on the need to take into account SMEs when drafting legislation, and reiterates that the ‘think small first’ principle should be applied at all times, in particular with regards to clarifying which achievements constitute patentable subject matter. Insists that the important role played by customs and international cooperation in the fight against IPR infringement in cross-border trade must not undermine global public health targets and trade in generic medicines.
There is a certain level of tolerance among Europeans for the idea that IPR infringements could be considered legitimate, especially among the young generation as well as poor understanding of which types of web content use are permitted. It is necessary and possible to run suitable user awareness and information campaigns, particularly for younger users, on the social and cultural importance of copyright.
There is a certain level of knowledge gap among the younger generation regarding actions considered as infringements of intellectual property rights.
Calls to define what ‘commercial-scale infringements’ are so as to deprive ‘commercial-scale’ infringers of their revenues.
Stresses that the enforcement of intellectual property rights should be proportionate and respect users’ fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to presumption of innocence, the right to fair trial, confidentiality of communications. Any restrictions to users’ rights must be foreseen by law.