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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 20:35 GMT
EU crackdown on counterfeit goods
CD street seller in Malaysia
Most goods enter Europe from the east

The European Commission has proposed new laws to curb a rising tide of counterfeit goods being smuggled into the European Union.

According to the commission, the volume of pirated goods intercepted by EU customs increased almost 10-fold in the four years between 1998 and 2001.

The trade in pirated CDs alone is said to be worth 4-5bn euros ($4-5bn) a year.

The commission says European enlargement has made the fight against counterfeiting all the more urgent.

Most pirated goods enter Europe from the east and many accession countries have become thriving markets for the fakes.

Existing EU anti-counterfeiting laws are out of date, brought in before the large-scale illegal trade in CDs and mobile phones.

Problem underestimated

The commission wants tighter co-operation between EU authorities and businesses, as well as stronger investigative powers for customs.

It is also proposing tougher protection for a range of goods.

Patented plants and products defined by their geographical origin would be among new categories covered.

Robert Verrue, the EU official responsible for customs matters, said the problem of counterfeiting had been underestimated for years.

If all the products seized by EU customs in 2001 had been the real thing, he said, they would have been worth 2bn euros.

The products targeted by the pirates extend well beyond music and branded fashion items, to include a huge range of everyday goods, such as car parts, medicines and toiletries.

Mr Verrue said increasingly it was small and medium-sized firms who were losing business to the counterfeiters.

See also:

26 Jul 02 | Europe
27 May 02 | Science/Nature
18 Mar 02 | N Ireland
29 Jul 01 | Business
11 Nov 98 | Single currency
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