In April 2009, as part of the European Commission's Internal Market and Services Directorate General, the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy was set up. The European Observatory is a network of both public and private sector experts, as well as stakeholders, who are ultimately tasked with the promotion of best practice on IP matters through a range of methods and practices. On 5 June 2012, the European Observatory was entrusted to OHIM and its name was changed to the 'European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights'.
The European Observatory has now launched its Enforcement Database. The database allows Rights Holders to upload information in relation to their trade mark, which is then stored on the database and can be accessed by Rights Holders. Customs officers, as well as the police, will then have direct access to the database through their existing systems. The aim is that the parties involved will be able to exchange and share information and communicate more easily through the database.
It will be free to set up an account on the database but users must have either a Community trade mark or nationally registered trade mark. Once an account is set up it is entirely up to the individual Rights Holders what information they supply. As an example, Rights Holders can choose to upload:
- Details of registered trade marks and designs
- Images of product ranges and/or packaging samples
- Logistical data e.g. valid consignment routes
- or - Anything else that they feel is relevant to help combat counterfeiting and piracy.
Users of the database will also be able to upload information relating to any previous counterfeit shipments or seizures. Enforcement officers will also be able to add to the Rights Holder's information, including the quantity and type of products seized, whether they were detained and/or released and their value. It is worth noting that personal details will not be stored on the database for data protection reasons and that users can select which agencies have access to which parts of their information. All information uploaded to the database will then be translated into all official languages of the EU. This will make detection and action far easier for enforcement officers, as they will be able to see all documentation in relation to a particular trade mark in their own language.
The database was originally piloted by 9 organisations, who have been able to upload information since June of last year. Customs officers can now also access the database and it was officially launched on 18 November 2013, with the Observatory taking requests for accounts from Rights Holders.
The clear aim of such a database is to increase and improve the information available to parties involved in counterfeit or piracy matters. It is anticipated that in the future Application for Action (AFA) forms will also be capable of being submitted directly from the database. AFAs are forms which identify a right-holders trade marks and request assistance from the Border Force either as a preventative measure or because they suspect their intellectual property rights have been/or are likely to be infringed. AFAs will be populated with information already held on the database and would therefore allow Rights Holders to take action where they see fit, in a far quicker and simpler manner.
Such a database has huge potential, but it does rely on the input of Rights Holders - a sort of 'you get out of it what you put into it' system. The fear is that Rights Holders will not take the time to register an account and upload the relevant information; this can clearly be imagined for large organisations with numerous brands and rights. Failure on the part of the Rights Holders would result in a flawed database which would then be redundant to enforcement officers. Given that it is free to register and there are limitless potential benefits, Rights Holders should be encouraged to get in contact with the Observatory at firstname.lastname@example.org and request to register on the database.