By Manuela Saragosa
BBC Europe business reporter in Brussels
Despite global crackdowns, piracy remains an expensive problem
The European Commission is to start monitoring China, Ukraine and Russia to check they are making genuine efforts to stop the production of pirated goods.
Pascal Lamy, the European Union's trade commissioner, said he had drawn up a list of the most problematic countries, all of which are to be subjected to regular surveys.
The list also includes Thailand, Brazil, South Korea and Indonesia.
"We need to give a signal to our trading partners that we're serious about this," he said.
He added that any countries which aren't making enough of an effort could be dragged to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a step that could trigger economic sanctions.
Also as part of the new plan to enforce copyright laws, the Commission will provide financial assistance, as well as training to customs officials abroad, to try to curb the export of pirated goods.
Enforcing international copyright law, Mr Lamy said, "is now a priority" for the Commission.
It will continue to be so even after he leaves office later this month and his position is filled by the British politician, Peter Mandelson. "We've agreed that this needs to be made a priority," Mr Lamy said.
To date, the Commission has avoided taking copyright disputes to the WTO. Mr Lamy said that was because developing countries were being offered an effective grace period while they complied with an international treaty called Trips, which sets the minimum global standards on copyright laws.
"That transition period is coming to an end," Mr Lamy said. "We're starting to see the beginnings of cases being pushed by industries in Europe."
It's not just luxury goods, clothing, music and software companies that are complaining either. Mr Lamy said counterfeiting extended to goods as diverse as spare parts for aeroplanes and cars, to pharmaceuticals.
The Commission said that between 1998 and 2002, the number of counterfeit or pirated goods intercepted at the EU's external borders increased by more than 800%.
It estimates the global trade in pirated wares is worth more than 200bn euros a year (£140bn; $258bn), or about 5% of total world trade.
Europe, Mr Lamy said, is particularly vulnerable because much of its comparative advantage in world trade rests in producing high quality, branded products.
"China is the place that is most worrying perhaps, because that's where we have the broadest spectrum of problems," Mr Lamy said. "20% of branded products in China are fake."
The EU has called on Chinese authorities to make it easier to prosecute product pirates. Chinese authorities say that because of the country's sheer size it's difficult to police copyright laws.
Counterfeit goods, including books, software, DVDs, medicines and designer fashion, are widely available throughout the China, despite sporadic crackdowns and arrests.