Recent Challenges for Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights

April 2006

Intellectual property (IP) rights exist to protect the works of creators and innovators from misappropriation or copying by unauthorized parties. Such protection is in the interests not only of the individual creators, but of wider economic development and consumer interests. Counterfeiting and piracy hamper the growth of national economies, depriving legitimate enterprises of turnover, and the state of revenues. The phenomenon deters investment and innovation,and often violates employment, health and safety legislation. On a transnational scale, counterfeiting often involves and sustains organized crime.

Changing patterns of counterfeiting and piracy

Today counterfeiting and piracy affect a huge spectrum of different goods, from aircraft parts to detergent, from alcohol and perfumes to security holograms. No industry is spared. Whereas previously high-end branded goods were a principal target, the latest trend is also to copy ordinary branded consumer goods – even those as mundane as toothbrushes. The type of goods counterfeited is changing constantly in line with market trends.

Counterfeiters are getting cleverer. They are exploiting technological advances to produce copies hardly distinguishable form the originals, in some cases even outsmarting the proprietors. They are making extensive use of the Internet, resulting in the sale and distribution of fake goods at enormous speed and with no geographical limitations. And they are seeking to circumvent border measures by moving imitation goods across borders in "disassembled" form, i.e. waiting until the consignment has passed through customs before sticking on the trademark labels which would make it obvious that the goods are counterfeit.

The problem is escalating, as demonstrated by the ever greater quantities and types of counterfeit goods seized each year. In 2004, seizures of fake foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages doubled at the European Union external borders, while seizures of computer hardware increased nine-fold over the previous year (see table). The scale and nature of the problem demands a coordinated approach to enforcement measures at the national, regional and international levels.

European Union - Counterfeit Seizures (comparison 2003-2004)

  • Percentile increase in number of articles seized
  • Computer equipment (hardware) 899%
  • Electrical equipment 707%
  • Foodstuffs, alcoholic and other drinks 197%
  • Clothing and accessories 102%
  • Toys and games 47%
  • Perfumes and cosmeticis -22%
  • Watches and jewellery –27%
  • Audio CDs, games, software, DVDs, etc -43%

Percentile increase in number of articles seized.


WIPO’s role

Working jointly with Member States, industry representatives and other stakeholders, WIPO aims to assist governments and industry in developing effective anti-counterfeiting and piracy strategies. The focus is on awareness-raising, legislative assistance, improved coordination, improving information exchange between right holders and enforcement agencies, and capacity building.

These priorities are pursued on an international level through WIPO’s on-going cooperation with organizations such as World Customs Organizations (WCO), Interpol, World Health Organisation (WHO) and, in an observer capacity, in the Group of G-8. WIPO’s intensive cooperation with WCO, Interpol and NGOs in the framework of the Global Congress Steering Group led to the high-level Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy in Brussels in 2004 and Lyon in 2005 (see the January/February 2006 edition of WIPO Magazine), as well as regionally focused conferences in Rome, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro. Two more regional forums will be held this year in Romania and in the Gulf States prior to the third Global Congress, which will be hosted by WIPO in Geneva in January 2007.

International Collaboration: Rome Declaration on Combating Counterfeit Drugs

" Counterfeiting medicines…is a vile and serious criminal offence that puts human lives at risk and undermines the credibility of health systems … Because of its direct impact on health…[it] should be combated and punished accordingly." -These words are from the Rome Declaration, issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) International Conference on "Combating Counterfeit Drugs: Building Effective International Collaboration," which took place on February 18.

WIPO participated in the Conference and welcomed the declaration, which recognizes the need for the "coordinated effort of all the different public and private stakeholders that are affected and are competent for addressing the different aspects of the problem." It concludes that the WHO should establish an International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) of governmental, non-governmental and international institutions aimed at:

  • "raising awareness among international organizations and other stakeholders at the international level in order to improve cooperation in combating counterfeit medicines, taking into account its global dimensions;
  • raising awareness among national authorities and decision-makers and calling for effective legislative measures in order to combat counterfeit medicines;
  • establishing effective exchange of information and providing assistance on specific issues that concern combating counterfeit medicines;
  • developing technical and administrative tools to support the establishment or strengthening of international, regional and national strategies; and
  • encouraging coordination among different anti-counterfeiting initiatives."


Training for law enforcement agencies are a key part of the work under taken by WIPO. Such training programs bring together the different government agencies, as well as judges and magistrates, so that all involved can better understand the work done by their counterparts and the need for inter-agency cooperation. Cooperation with the private sector is a cornerstone of the success of much of this training.

Training sessions typically include a review of international obligations vis-a-vis provisions in the local laws; and discussion of the importance of deterrent criminal penalties and destruction orders, as well as of adequate damage awards in favor of the prejudiced right holders. Workshops for judges then typically focus on the analysis of IP case law, both from within the country and from other countries. Workshops for prosecutors focus on how to draft charges, to present evidence and to request the court to hand down deterrent sentences, including orders to destroy the counterfeit goods and the implements used in their creation. Training for police investigators aims to provide a clear understanding of the elements requiring proof, in order to increase the chances of successful prosecutions. Customs officials benefit from in-depth training sessions on how to spot those shipments more likely to contain counterfeit goods; as well as how to identify such goods and to secure the cooperation of the right holder in the subsequent border enforcement process.

Advisory Committee on Enforcement

WIPO Member States will shortly be meeting in the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE), the third session of which will be held from May 15 to 17 at WIPO headquarters. The main objectives of the ACE are to enhance information exchange between law enforcement agencies, to assess training and education needs, and develop teaching materials and methodologies, with a view to contributing to the creation of a legal, organizational and technical framework for effective enforcement of IP rights. The forthcoming session will focus on the theme of education and awareness-raising, including presentations by a number of delegations detailing current efforts in this field.

Through all its activities, WIPO will continue, on request from Member States, to offer advice, training and facilitation in order to assist those Member States in their efforts to render the enforcement chain more effective, to improve the handling of IP disputes, to set up appropriate anti-counterfeiting mechanisms and to strengthen essential partnerships between the public and private sectors.


The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.