The European Commission has released a paper detailing its commitment to protect intellectual property rights in an effort to encourage innovation and creativity under its digital single market strategy.

One such method was to tackle the “big fish” through a “follow the money” approach which seeks to obstruct the revenue streams of large commercial operations who flood counterfeit and pirated goods into the EU market.

The paper, amongst other issues, addresses the need to support industry led co-operation in preventing IP infringement, and help combat such infringement by monitoring foreign markets.

Industry Led Co-Operation

The Commission hopes to build on successful industry-led initiatives to obstruct the revenue flow from counterfeit and pirated goods.

In 2011, rights holders, trade associations and technology companies like Amazon and Microsoft signed a memorandum of understanding on the online sale of counterfeit goods, which established a code of practice in tackling infringement and aligned the signatories’ approach in data sharing. This agreement has reaped considerable results in curbing fake goods, as numerous infringing products have been successfully removed from particular sites. The Commission now hopes attract further participants to promote its agenda.

The paper notes the value of adverts promoting legitimate goods on IP infringing sites which, they argue, deceive users into believing they are purchasing genuine goods through lawful means. A proposed memorandum to remove advertising from such sites is designed to reinstate consumer confidence in brands and delegitimise the sites and the products they offer.

Additional voluntary memorandums are being considered for online payment service providers who are exploited by infringers to collect their revenue, as well as freight companies to disrupt the supply chain of counterfeit goods.

The Commission also hopes to rely on new technology to interrupt the supply chains by relying on blockchain and advanced authentication processes, improving data sharing with Europol and EUIPO and supporting Member States’ customs units.

Monitoring Foreign Markets

The Commission has also committed to tackle IP violations in international trade, both by monitoring foreign markets and encouraging further co-operation between Member States.

It is hoped that establishing an IP markets watch list with the European Observatory will highlight both digital and physical markets which procure or facilitate substantial IP infringement. A public consultation will harvest data from these markets and the list will be published in the latter half of 2018.

The development of three IP technical co-operation programs with South East Asian, China and Latin America at a cost of €20million are to implement IP protection systems in those regions based on those used in the EU. The Commission also intends to publish a new report on the protection and enforcement of IP rights in third countries which will assist in its decision to direct resources to particular locations worldwide.

The Commission is also looking inwardly, considering the impact of the EU Customs Action Plan 2013-2017, which sought to monitor major trends in IP infringement, considering international supply chains and encourage communication with the European Observatory.