EU customs authorities detained goods worth €1 billion at EU external borders in 2012. A recently published European Commission report details the type of fake goods coming into the EU and where they are coming from.

The Report on Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) analyses the enforcement of IPRs and provides detailed statistics on the source of counterfeit goods and on the value of counterfeit goods seized. Goods coming from non-EU countries which are suspected of infringing an IPR in the EU can be seized by the customs authorities of the relevant member state and in many cases are destroyed with the consent of the rights-holder.

Some of the most interesting findings in the Report are:

  • the number of seizures in 2012 was approximately 90,500 (marginally less than in 2011), which equates to a domestic retail value of almost €1 billion;
  • in 95% of cases, goods were seized on the basis of a suspicion of infringing a trade mark;
  • in 77% of cases the seized goods were destroyed by customs and in 8% of cases they were released to the importer because they did not infringe the IPRs of the rights-holder or the rights-holder did not react in time;
  • 65% of the total amount of articles seized entered the EU from China;
  • Moldova emerged in the top 10 countries of provenance due to large seizures of counterfeit cigarettes;
  • cigarettes accounted for 20% of the value of goods seized, followed by bags, wallets and purses (15%) and clothing (12%); and
  • 2012 continued the trend of a substantial number of seizures (60%) relating to goods sent by post, which is an indication of the wide availability of counterfeit goods online.

The European Parliament recently adopted a new Regulation concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights which will replace Regulation (EC) 1383/2003. It is expected to start applying as of 1 January 2014. Its implementation will be of interest in particular in relation to the increased powers of customs to seize and destroy small consignments of goods (i.e. postal goods).