what was at stake
green position
what we achieved
what we did not achieve

Customs enforcement of intellectual property rights

The Commission observes that the number of infringements of intellectual property rights (IPRs) detected by customs authorities increased from 6,000 in 2000 to 80,000 in 2010 and notes that the types of infringement also changed.

As a result, the current legal framework appears no longer sufficient.

The Commission argues that IPR infringements should henceforth not only include trademarks, but also patents and other forms of intellectual property.

Consequently, it suggests expanding the scope of provisions designed to combat IPR infringements and modifying the associated underlying administrative procedures. Controls may interfere with trade flows, which is a sensitive issue, for example when it comes to generic medicines in transit.


What was the Greens' position?

The Greens believe that the Commission's proposal confers excessive competencies on customs authorities by seeking to broaden the scope of the legislation to include practically all forms of intellectual property.

Thus, the Commission envisages provisions designed to simplify the confiscation and destruction of goods suspected of infringing IPRs, even without notification.

Likewise, medicines in transit in the EU are supposed to be inspected and confiscated, even if not destined for the European market. We maintain that the EU must respect its international obligations granting access to affordable medication, especially for people in developing countries.

We do not think customs authorities are competent to accurately evaluate the various possible infringements.

We are also in favour of exemptions for small consignments.


Did other MEPs accept the Greens' position?

The Greens succeeded in gaining majority support for our position on shipments of medicines in transit, avoiding confiscation.

The rules governing customs and IPRs will thus be in line with European commitments regarding in development policy and access to generic medicines.

Furthermore, the Commission will look into the potential impact of checking medicine shipments in transit in the EU with respect to ensuring that developing countries have access to generic medicines.

This constitutes a partial success, since inspections of medicines in transit will be possible despite these provisions.


Which points did the Greens lose?

The Greens were unable to avoid inspections of medicines in transit, mostly due to the pro-industry stance adopted by the EPP and ALDE.

Nor did we manage to secure the adoption of our amendments on other goods in transit. So customs officials will be entitled to check whether other IPRs are being violated, even if the goods concerned are not destined for European consumers.

We were also disappointed that small consignments were not exempted as we had demanded.


Procedure:Ordinary legislative procedure


Lead MEP:Jürgen Creutzmann (ALDE)

Green MEP responsible:Heide Rühle


Staff contact:Stany Grudzielski (Email)

Outcome of the vote
Below you find the results of the final vote in plenary. How did the political groups vote? What about national delegations? And what was the position of your MEP?