The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy has taken another step forward in its efforts against IP infringement by allowing a small number of customs authorities to test its enforcement database ahead of its full launch in April 2014.

Rightsholders have been filling the database with details of their trade marks and design-protected products, including pictures of products and packaging and details of previous counterfeit cases, since June 2013.  They have also been able to include tips to help customs authorities identify infringing products, as well as details of previous counterfeiting cases.  The Observatory plans to incorporate the database into the secure EU customs network, and rightsholders’ information will be translated into all the official languages of the EU to allow easy and secure access to customs authorities.

The database will also make it easier for rights owners to complete the formal application required for action to be taken against infringing items by customs authorities, and will  enable them to choose which enforcement agencies have access to the information they upload.  The hope is that this free resource will give rightsholders in general, and SMEs in particular, a simple but effective extra-judicial means of monitoring and defending their rights.  In a global economy, the lack of international harmonisation can make enforcement and protection of IP rights more difficult.  Whether the Observatory’s database will have a significant impact on cross-border counterfeiting remain to be seen.