Wednesday 26 February 2014

INTERPOL and EUROPOL: efficacy against counterfeiting

INTERPOL Headquarters
By Massimiliano Mariani (via Wikipedia)

Through Operation Opson III INTERPOL and EUROPOL have once again become the scourge of the organized crime networks behind counterfeiting at the transnational level.

Within the framework of the operation, reported by EUROPOL on 13 February 2014, thousands of tonnes of foodstuffs and hundreds of thousands of litres of drinks, all counterfeit or unregulated and potentially harmful, were seized. The actions extended to 33 countries throughout Europe, America and Asia and were carried out with the aid of national police forces, private sector organizations and customs authorities. The operation was the third in a series launched by INTERPOL and EUROPOL in 2011 under the codename “Opson”  (meaning “food” in ancient Greek) which is aimed at combating illicit trade in counterfeit foodstuffs at the transnational level and has so far resulted in the arrest of over three hundred people and the seizure of vast amounts of goods to the value of hundreds of millions of dollars. This series of blows to the organized crime networks bears witness to the extraordinary organizational and operational capacity of INTERPOL and EUROPOL and to the commendable coordination of the police forces of the different countries.

The work performed by INTERPOL in the intellectual property field is particularly noteworthy. In 2012 it set up a programme against trafficking in illicit goods and counterfeiting with a view to improving transnational cooperation in this area between the security forces of the member States. INTERPOL rates offences against intellectual property to be highly damaging to the whole of global society and highlights the increasingly preponderant role of international mafias, to which this Blog in turn referred in a previous post.

Although the figures on the growth in worldwide traffic in counterfeit goods are dismaying, the increased effectiveness of operations undertaken against it by these Community and international police forces are to be highlighted. In 2012 INTERPOL launched Operation Maya in various Central and South American countries, where over 1,000 police interventions took place and 200 arrests were made, and Operation Black Poseidon in Eastern Europe entailing over 1,700 interventions and the seizure of goods to the value of 122 million euros. EUROPOL, for its part, conducted Operation Leatherface, which resulted in the dismantling in various provinces of Spain of a  transnational network connected with the Camorra and engaging in illicit trade in counterfeit goods. In Operation Pangea INTERPOL and EUROPOL worked together, with the assistance of other public and private sector bodies, to dismantle a network involved in the online sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. In the course of that operation 58 people were arrested and 9.8 million items of goods, which would have had a market value of 41 million dollars, were seized.

The third phase of Operation Opson, which exemplifies the spirit of cooperation and capacity for coordination of INTERPOL and EUROPOL, is still ongoing. Thanks to this work consumers and trademark owners are safer, while international criminals are more uneasy.

By Eyehook
(via Wikimedia)
In Spain ELZABURU is involved, within the framework of Operation Opson III, in the pursuit of a criminal organization engaging in the production and distribution of counterfeit French champagne originating in Italy. EUROPOL is working on the investigation.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Can an EU resident purchase a counterfeit product from a Chinese online sales website, even if it is for private use?

By Frank Williams
Vía Wikipedia

The user will certainly be able to buy it. But may never end up receiving it: on entry of the counterfeit product into the EU territory the Regulation relating to the seizure by customs authorities of goods suspected of infringing intellectual property rights will be applied and, as a result, the counterfeit product will be seized and, as the case may be, destroyed.

This is the judgment handed down by the Court of Justice (Second Chamber) in case C-98/13, which was just published on 6 February 2014.

The facts of the case date back to January 2010 when a Danish citizen (Mr. Blomqvist) bought a Rolex watch from a Chinese online sales website and paid for it through the same website. The parcel was sent from Hong Kong to the address of Mr. Blomquvist in Denmark, but was seized by the Danish customs authorities pursuant to EC Regulation no. 1383/2003, which was in force at the time, on grounds of infringement of the industrial and intellectual property rights of the rightholder, Rolex. The Danish importer opposed the destruction of the watch on the grounds that he had bought it lawfully for his own personal use.

The Court of Justice ruled that, although the sale of the goods occurred through a website located in a country outside of the EU, the holder of the industrial and intellectual property rights cannot be denied the protection afforded to that holder by the customs regulation and that, as a result, the counterfeit goods must be prevented from entering the EU territory. It is not necessary to check whether the goods have previously been the subject of an offer for sale or advertising targeting European consumers, because the sale has been accredited.

Consequently, this judgment represents a serious warning to those purchasing goods online: counterfeit goods purchased from websites outside of the EU can be seized and destroyed when they enter EU territory, irrespective of the use made of them.

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