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Intellectual property rights: enhancing their enforcement

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Intellectual property rights: enhancing their enforcement

Safeguarding intellectual property rights proves to be more and more difficult in the face of increasing piracy and counterfeiting, made easier by the Internet in particular. It is for this reason that the European Commission presents guidelines aimed at protecting inventors, designers and artists.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 11 September 2009 - Enhancing the enforcement of intellectual property rights in the internal market [COM(2009) 467 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


This Communication presents measures aimed at safeguarding intellectual property rights (IPR) and combating counterfeiting and piracy within the internal market.

European Observatory

The European Commission is establishing a European Observatory, the aim of which is to gather, monitor and report information and data related to IPR.

This Observatory requires collaboration between Member States and the private sector.

The main functions of the Observatory are:

  • the collection and use of independent, reliable information and data;
  • the dissemination of best practice amongst public authorities;
  • the dissemination of successful private sector strategies;
  • the assessment and identification of solutions for specific geographical areas.

The Observatory should be based on existing European Commission structures, and the Commission will provide the central administrative resource. It will however be possible, where necessary, to make use of external expertise.

The Commission has asked the Member States to appoint a national representative for the Observatory and has requested the participation of the private sector including a broad range of national and pan-European bodies representing the different economic sectors most involved in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting. European consumers are also represented and invited to play an active role.

Administrative cooperation across Europe

It is necessary to improve cross-border cooperation between different enforcement authorities in view of the international nature of IPR infringements.

Cooperation between the Commission and Member States should also be consolidated in the context of a borderless internal market. In this regard, the creation of a network of contact points across the European Union would be a relevant solution.

As the national centres of IPR expertise, National Intellectual Property Offices also have a role to play. They can contribute to developing strategic approaches and the dissemination of best practices.

National bodies should improve transparency in respect of the activities that they carry out in the field of IPR protection. The Commission, on the basis of information collected from Member States, is responsible for analysing the structures that Member States have put in place and drafting a report to map existing strategies, frameworks and best practices.

Stakeholders in European cooperation in the field of IPR should have access to an electronic network for the exchange of information on infringements that have been committed. This network will need to:

  • support real-time exchanges of information on goods and services infringing IPR;
  • put in place an effective system of alerts concerning specific products or potential threats;
  • facilitate communication between the parties involved, particularly to overcome language barriers;
  • raise consumers’ awareness of the growing threat of counterfeiting and piracy and the associated risks.

Voluntary arrangements between stakeholders

The Commission wishes to encourage rights holders and the other parties involved to engage in dialogue and to share their common interests in combating IPR infringements. In this regard, voluntary arrangements seem to be the most appropriate solution, since this type of agreement allows for rapid adaptation to new technologies and may be extended beyond the European Union (EU).

The sale of counterfeit goods over the Internet has developed considerably in recent years. The Commission considers this sector as a priority for action where the method of dialogue and cooperation agreements could be applied effectively.

Brand owners and Internet companies alike therefore committed themselves to developing a collaborative method. This involves a Memorandum of Understanding dealing with prevention, identification and removal of infringing offers and sellers from Internet platforms, signed in 2011 and involving 33 companies and trade associations, covering 39 different internet sites. A 2013 report shows that the approach adopted by the MoU works. However, it also highlights the need for Internet Platforms and Rights Owners to remain alert and vigilant. It concludes that the MoU should continue for another two years and that its membership should be extended. The Commission is considering further action to deal with the fight against counterfeiting more broadly.

The Commission envisages legislative solutions if voluntary arrangements cannot be implemented.


IPR infringements, particularly counterfeiting and piracy, cause widespread economic harm and even pose a threat to public health and consumer safety. The Commission therefore considers it necessary to protect IPR in order to foster economic growth, innovation and creativity.


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Sale of Counterfeit Goods via the Internet [COM(2013)209 final of 18.4.2013 - not published in the Official Journal].

Commission communication: a single market for intellectual property rights - Boosting creativity and innovation to provide economic growth, high quality jobs and first class products and services in Europe [COM(2011)287 final of 24.5.2011].

Last updated: 28.04.2014