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EU ministers want new life for IP enforcement

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European Union minsters have told EU governing bodies to revive plans to create a pan-EU law criminalising intellectual property infringement, and to make more use of a new body to cooperate on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

They have also asked the European Commission to create new laws if cooperation does not work.

The Competitiveness Council, which is part of the EU Council of Ministers, has published a Resolution on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. It says that the European Commission should consider reviving a previously-proposed and much-amended Directive that sought to harmonise criminal sanctions for IP infringement across Europe.

"[The Council] invites the Commission to analyse the opportunity of submitting an amended proposal for a Directive on criminal measures aimed at combating counterfeiting and piracy," a resolution from the Council said. "This analysis must include an assessment of the extent to which action is essential to ensure the effective implementation of a Union policy in an area which has been subject to harmonisation measures, as well as an examination of the impact, costs and benefits of any new measures."

The planned Directive was first proposed in 2005 but was controversial and faced opposition and heavy amendments. The Directive stalled after a critical report by the European Parliament's Economic and Social Committee in 2007.

The Council also called for countries and EU bodies to make more use of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, which was established by the Commission and met for the first time last year.

If none of their recommendations work, ministers have asked the Commission to consider new anti-piracy laws.

"In cases where stakeholders' dialogues are unable to reach agreed solutions, [the Commission should] review the situation in cooperation with Member States and... come forward with proposals for an appropriate follow-up, including proposals for legislation, if necessary and appropriate," said the Resolution.

The ministers welcomed the creation of the Observatory but asked the Commission to outline more clearly exactly what its powers and the scope of its activities will be.

They said that countries should cooperate more fully with the Observatory so that the data on which policies are based can be made more reliable.

"Member States and industry [should] provide the Observatory with available information and .. jointly develop and agree, in the context of the Observatory, on plans to collect further information and … jointly develop a common methodology for collecting data," they said.

It also asked the Observatory to publish an annual report detailing the levels of counterfeiting and piracy in the EU that year and the economic impact that activity had had.

See: The resolution (6-page/106kb pdf)

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