Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home topics Trade Detention of counterfeit and pirated goods at EU borders in 2010 - guide

Detention of counterfeit and pirated goods at EU borders in 2010 - guide

14 July 2011
by eub2 -- last modified 14 July 2011

In 2010, EU Customs seized more than 103 million products suspected of violating intellectual property rights (IPR) at the EU's external borders. According to the Commission's annual report on EU Customs enforcement of IPR published today, the number of shipments stopped by customs almost doubled compared to last year, rising from 43,500 in 2009 to almost 80,000 in 2010. Today’s report also gives statistics on the type, origin and transport method of IPR infringing products stopped at the EU's external borders. For the first time, the report also indicates the value of the goods detained which is estimated at over € 1 billion. The top categories of articles stopped by customs were cigarettes (34%), office supplies (9%) other tobacco products (8%), labels, tags and emblems (8%), clothing (7%) and toys (7%). 14.5% of all detained articles were household products such as shampoos, soaps, medicines or household appliances (hair dryers, shavers, computer parts) which could potentially have health and safety implications for consumers. One of the major trends this year is the growing number of detentions of postal packages.


What is this report about?

This report contains statistics on actions by customs in the EU relating to goods suspected of infringing intellectual property rights (IPR). These statistics are established by the European Commission, based on the data transmitted by the EU Member States.

How many suspected IPR infringing goods were detained in 2010 compared to previous years?

Customs interventions involving goods suspected of infringing IPR have almost doubled in 2010. Almost 80,000 cases were recorded in 2010, compared to 43,500 cases in 2009. This dramatic increase is due to the growing number of interceptions in postal traffic, which has significantly increased as a result of the growing number of online purchases in Europe. .

However, in comparison to 2009, the number of goods detained has fallen from 118 million in 2009 to 103 million in 2010.

What is the difference between cases and articles?

A case represents an interception by customs. Each case contains a certain amount of individual articles that can vary from 1 to several million and can contain articles of different categories.

Number of registered cases

 Number of cases

Number of articles

Number of detained articles

Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

Which are the most frequently detained articles?

In terms of number of articles detained, tobacco products come first (almost 34 million pieces, i.e. 34% of all articles), followed by office stationery (8 million, i.e. 9%), other tobacco products (8%), labels, tags and emblems (7%), clothing (7%) and toys (7%). 

Top categories by article

Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

Clothing is the category of products for which most customs interventions took place (26%) in 2010, followed by shoes (19%) and electrical equipment (13%).

Top categories according to cases

Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

What types of medicines have been detained?

The most popular counterfeited medicines (99%) are life-style medicines such as diet pills or Viagra. However, medicines such as antibiotics, antidepressants, anti-allergics, anti-anxieties, treatment of cancer or medicines that provoke abortion are also intercepted by customs.

Where did the suspected IPR infringing goods come from?

In 2010, 85% of the total amount of articles infringing IPR came from China. This represents an important increase compared to 2009 (64%). Other countries were the main source of provenance for different product categories, notably Turkey for foodstuff, Thailand for non-alcoholic beverages, Hong Kong for memory cards and India for medicines.

Countries of provenance according to articles

Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

Which means of transport are most used to import suspected counterfeit goods into the EU?

Detention of goods via postal traffic has increased by 82% in 2010 compared to 2009. Cases concerned mainly clothing, shoes and electrical goods.

Almost 62% of cases account for goods detained via postal traffic, followed by 23% of cases by air transport and 7% of cases by road transport.

Medicines account for almost 69% of the number of articles detained in postal traffic.

Regarding the articles detained, the overwhelming majority is transported by sea (82%) and road (almost 8%). 

Registered cases by means of transport

Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

Number of articles in percentage in postal traffic

Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

Why have of the number of interventions against goods suspected of infringing IPR increased so much in 2010?

The increase mainly results from sales via the internet. This increasingly popular method of purchasing is simple and convenient for consumers. It has opened up a new channel of distribution for all types of IPR infringing goods, which may be of poor quality or even dangerous for the health and security of consumers.

Why has the number of articles detained in 2010 decreased?

Despite the increase in postal traffic the packages detained were mainly small and usually limited to one article. . In addition, the decrease in detentions in sea traffic has also led to a reduction in the overall quantities of articles detained.

Why is it important that Customs enforce IPR effectively?

As the EU's 2020 Strategy underlines, the protection of IPR is key to the EU economy. By giving people the incentive to be creative and innovative, IPR promote growth in the European economy, creating and protecting millions of jobs. It is also of the utmost importance that the EU strengthens the ability of customs to fight against counterfeit goods that could be potentially dangerous for consumers, such as toothpastes, body care articles, foodstuffs and electrical products.

Customs is ideally placed to enforce trade rights between the EU and third countries. To put this into context, the Customs 2013 programme which has a budget of € 324 million over 2008-2013, enables the Customs Union to function seamlessly as one, instead of a patchwork of 27 national administrations. It allows national administrations to handle 7 customs declarations every second, totalling 211 million a year, without hampering imports to or exports from the EU. It also allows the exchange of over one billion information messages every year between tax and customs administrations via IT systems. This information exchange has increased by 40% in the last five years. Finally, the Programme ensures that around 10 million trucks carrying goods from third countries can circulate in the EU territory annually with real-time customs control (from departure to arrival and clearance) via 47 million electronic information exchanges.

Is the detention of IPR infringing goods only a matter for customs authorities?

National customs administrations are the key controlling bodies at the external frontiers of the EU. However, co-operation with other enforcement authorities, and third actors, such as the right holders, also needs to be improved to keep the problem of IPR infringements under control.

In most Member States, law enforcement authorities other than Customs are also responsible for controlling IPR infringing goods within their territories, for example at open markets or where production of such goods is discovered on their territory.

How effective is the cooperation with the industry?

As the quality of IPR infringing goods has substantially improved and more and more highly technical goods are involved, customs have found it increasingly difficult to distinguish genuine products from the infringing products. Input from industry is therefore indispensable.

The identification and grounds for suspicion of an infringement relies on the information provided by industry (such as the type of IPR infringing goods, information on production and means of transport, physical characteristics of original goods, etc.). The European Commission, in collaboration with Member States has established a manual for right holders for lodging and processing applications for action. When right holders suspect that their rights are being infringed, they may lodge an application, requesting customs to take action.

How many applications were made by the industry in 2010 compared to previous years?

The growing involvement of industry is measured through the increasing number of applications for action made in the Member States. In 2010, right holders lodged over 18.000 applications for action to Customs administrations. This corresponds to 95 % of all related customs interventions.

























Source: Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights at EU border, 2010

What happens to goods once they are detained by customs?

In 90% of all cases the detained articles were either destroyed or were subject to a court case to determine the infringement. Only 7% were released because they did not infringe an IPR or no action was undertaken by right holders after the detention.

What is done to ensure customs cooperation with third countries?

In addition to EU controls at import, it is necessary to act at the source of the problem by stopping the export of IPR infringing goods and, where possible, by shutting down the production. This requires international cooperation.

In particular, an agreement was reached with China in 2009, to develop a customs action plan on IPR enforcement (IP/09/193). The plan concentrates on 4 key areas, namely the exchange of statistical information, the creation of a network of customs experts in key-ports, the enhancement of cooperation with other enforcement administrations and development of partnerships with business communities. The plan was extended in December 2009 until the end of 2012).

In which Member States did Customs detain the most infringing goods?

10 Member states account for 85% of the overall amount of cases and 92% of the overall amount of articles. Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and Spain are in the top 10 for both cases and articles intercepted by customs.

Member States percentage cases/articles

What is done to improve the current regulation on IPR enforcement in the EU?

The current EU rules on IPR enforcement date from 2003. The Commission extensively reviewed these rules with the aim to propose a new regulation that strengthens provisions concerning customs enforcement of IPR, whilst at the same time ensuring appropriate legal clarity of the provisions themselves. This review was done in cooperation with Member States and the Commission launched a public consultation on the topic which ended on 7 June 2010. On the basis of these discussions and contributions, the Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation on customs enforcement of IPR on 24 May 2011, as part of a comprehensive package of IPR measures.

Source: European Commission

Sponsor a Guide

EUbusiness Guides offer background information and web links about key EU business issues.

Promote your services by providing your own practical information and help to EUbusiness members, with your brand and contact details.

To sponsor a Guide phone us on +44 (0)20 7193 7242 or email sales.

EU Guides