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26th May 2017

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MEPs to vote on EU penalties against fake products

  • Counterfeit medicine is on the increase (Photo: www.freeimages.co.uk)

MEPs will on Tuesday (20 March) vote on a draft law that could see EU-wide criminal penalties for counterfeiting and violating intellectual property rights.

Members of the European Parliament's legal affairs committee will give their view on a draft report by Italian socialist MEP Nicola Zingaretti following an April 2006 European Commission proposal for a law on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

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According to the commission, the range and value of pirated goods - from fashion bags to sports cars and from music files to fake medicine - within the bloc is on the rise and increasingly linked to organised crime.

The commission proposal would harmonise criminal penalties in the area across the EU with a maximum of four years imprisonment and fines of up to €91,053.

Fines could go up to €273,160 if organised crime is involved or in cases of a risk to health and safety, such as counterfeit medicines or batteries.

Brussels' move into criminal matters was triggered by a landmark ruling on environmental crimes by the European Court of Justice in September 2005, which gave Brussels the power to introduce harmonized criminal laws across the EU.

The court stated that the commission is allowed to propose penal measures in order to make community legislation effective.

Scope of the law

The parliament committee vote on the draft report has already been postponed twice as the scope of the law has been of much debate.

MEPs' viewpoints have been divided between either broadening or limiting the remit of the proposed law.

Austrian Green MEP Eva Lichtenberger argues the law should only cover areas where national laws are not already in place.

"Let's focus on the large-scale organised crime," she said at the last committee meeting. "Let's leave the end-user, who didn't even know he did something wrong," she added.

Dutch liberal MEP Toine Manders at the same meeting called for consistency. "We need standards and laws recognised all over Europe."

He has also, in an amendment, called for strict anti-counterfeiting penalties to include the seizure and destruction of all counterfeit material and equipment used to carry out the infringement.

"National law can't fight international crime," Mr Zingaretti said at the meeting last month. "We have to give Europe the tools to fight international organised crime."

If the legal affairs committee adopts the report, it will face the 785-member strong plenary in April or May.

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