The freshly released report of the European Commission on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights in 2015 is testament to the high effectiveness of applications for customs action in the European Union as it shows a remarkable 15% rise in numbers of detained counterfeits compared to 2014 and a four year high.

Key Figures and Findings

The report makes public that almost 41 million counterfeit articles were detained in 2015 representing a domestic retail value of over EUR 642 million in total. Top product category was cigarettes (27 % of all detained articles), followed by “other goods”, a category which assembles products as diverse as batteries, glue or furniture (10 %) and product category toys (9 %).

The report also shows that more counterfeit articles were detained in the course of fewer detention proceedings compared to 2014 and that the decrease in procedures is due to procedures for destruction of small consignments falling almost 5% (counting for slightly above 22% of all detentions). This drop could not be matched by the parallel increase in detentions under the standard procedure involving higher quantities which was applied in almost 60 % of all detention cases in 2015. According to the EU Commission, the decrease in small consignment procedures is directly related to lesser detentions in postal traffic which itself resulted from right holders not wanting – or having renounced from application of – the small consignment procedure which was introduced in 2014 as a response to the growing importance of internet shopping.

At the same time, right holders have increasingly requested customs action against counterfeits in the EU resulting in the overall number of customs applications jumping from nearly 21,000 in 2014 to more than 33,000 applications in 2015. Most applications were “Union Applications” covering more than one, possibly up to all 28 EU member states, with one and the same application.

Trademarks remain the most relevant IP right for customs action. Out of all articles detained in 2015, 69% by number and 59% by value were detained on suspicion of trademark infringement. European Union trademarks with effect in the entire EU and allowing for a customs application covering all 28 EU member states were invoked by far the most (67%). Designs came in second, a considerable way behind (almost 4% by number of articles and 6.5% by value).

The vast majority of counterfeits were destroyed easily in the course of customs proceedings, i.e. without the need for the right holder to initiate court proceedings and often even without approaching the infringer (almost 82 % of all cases – simplified and standard procedure together). Including cases solved in the course of court proceedings, almost 91% of all detentions made in 2015 at the EU outer borders resulted in destruction.

Main Takeaways

Right holders increasingly rely on the EU customs to fight counterfeit products and they are right in doing so. The new figures prove that the customs of the EU member states are determined to detect counterfeits and to prevent them from entering the EU single market. Action is encouraged by efficient, right holder friendly procedures which regularly allow for easy destruction of counterfeits at minimum right holder efforts. Union applications in particular make customs action in the EU popular as they allow triggering of free-of-charge customs action at the borders of up to all 28 EU member states with just one application.