Expert calls for crackdown on EU bootleg booze

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

While China continues to pose a significant copyright threat to
Europe's spirit makers, the industry must also address the problem
on its own doorstep, according to the director general of the
European Spirits organization (CEPS).

Jamie Fortescue told that, with the expansion of the EU to 27 member states, there were serious concerns over copyright violations within the bloc itself, as the EU parliament this week vowed to crack down on bootleggers. "Following internal discussions recently, our members suggested that if we wish to take a strong stance withChinaover copyrighting, we must also make similar commitments domestically,"​ he said. "We believe that some member-states are not being terribly strict on counterfeiters, who not only threaten the reputation of leading spirits brands, but consumer health as well."Industry fights back​ Fortescue said that the CEPS was not sure on how exactly it would aim to tackle the problem, but discussions were going to take place on the matter. "We may look at working with other sectors involved, though whether this may lead to legal recourse, or other measures, we are not yet sure,"​ he said. "Good legislation is necessary, as it can be difficult to prosecute in some EU member states for counterfeiting." ​ The comments follow Tuesday's European parliament-led high-level conference on piracy and counterfeiting, which aimed to find new ways of battling bootleg-booze and other copied consumer goods. Charlie McCreevy, European commissioner for internal markets, told delegates at the conference, which included industry and political figures, that counterfeiting was not a harmless means of letting a consumer bagging a bargain. "Today, the production of counterfeit and pirated products is carried out on an industrial scale,"​ he stated. "Their actions are criminal and it is networks controlled by criminals that are used to bring counterfeit goods to the market." ​ While McCreevy stressed that the conference was by no means likely to offer a fix-all solution for European industry in preventing the presence of counterfeit goods in the market, he claimed it would act as a good start. He added, that a unit has now been established within Europe to combating intellectual property theft, which he hoped would expand to support measures in restricting counterfeiting. European problem​ According to EC figures, in 2005, an estimated 75m fake articles were seized by European officials. By last year, this figure had grown to 128m products, which include drinks, clothing and even medicines, the commission said. McCreevy added that the consumer industries themselves have a significant role in this focus. "It is industry that has the inherent knowledge to identify the fake products and to uncover the production and distribution network used to make and sell the counterfeits,"​ he said. "Industry could do a lot to help themselves were they to unite in the fight by developing collaboration and mutual assistance models on the basis of stakeholder agreements."Addressing the concerns​ As part of the battle to cut out counterfeiting with Europe, the commission says that existing legal instruments needed to be made more effective, possibly through greater cooperation between authorities. Compiling data on counterfeiting was highlighted by the EC as another area to be addressed, particularly in improving the current fragmented system within Europe. The possible use of standardized tracking systems for European producers across production sectors may also be considered, the EC said.

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