The European Commission has published its annual Report on EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights for 2013.

The report states that almost 87,000 cases of detained goods were opened in 2013. These cases contained a total of 36 million items with a domestic retail value of over €760 million, representing a decrease of 4% on the equivalent figures for 2012.

The main category of detained articles were clothing (12% of the total), followed by other goods (11%), medicines (10%), cigarettes (9%), packaging materials (9%) and toys (8%). The Commission report has again found that China is the main country from which goods suspected of infringing an intellectual property right enter the EU, accounting for two thirds of all detained products. The report also found that certain countries were the main source in specific categories of products, for example Turkey for perfumes and cosmetics and Egypt for foodstuffs.

In 92% of detentions the goods were either destroyed or the right holder initiated a court case to establish the intellectual property infringement. In 8% of the court cases, the goods were released because either the right holder did not react to the notification by customs (4.9%) or they were original goods (2.9%). This demonstrates that only a very small proportion of the goods detained in 2013 were not infringing intellectual property rights.

The report notes that during the last four years, there has been a shift towards small packages of infringing goods entering the EU via post and couriers, as the number of cases relating to postal and courier traffic makes up 72% of all detentions. Medicine was the top category of detained small packages with 19% of this total. Products for daily use that would be potentially dangerous to the health and safety of consumers amounted to 25.2% of all detained goods, compared to 12.7% in 2012, mainly due to the increase in the number of detained medicines.

The shift toward importation of infringing goods in small packages, which is most likely due to the increase in online sales, suggests that intellectual property rights holders should have regard for the small consignment procedure carried out by national customs authorities. This procedure allows for the convenient destruction of infringing goods. There is no charge for this procedure in Ireland.