Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights are a widespread and ever-increasing phenomenon worldwide. According to Europol, international trade in counterfeit products represents up to 2.5% of the world trade (EUR 338 billion), that is the equivalent of the GDP of Austria, or the combined GDP of Ireland and the Czech Republic. In the European Union alone, counterfeit and pirated products amount to up to 5% of imports, or as much as EUR 85 billion. IPR infringements negatively impact the revenues of the affected businesses and produce adverse social and economic effects that result in thousands of job losses. They can also pose a very serious threat to the health and safety of consumers as counterfeit goods are produced without regard to the health and safety standards adopted by the European Union. Recent cases notified to Europol by EU Member States include, for example, medical and dental equipment and airbags.
Fighting counterfeit medicinal products, counterfeiting, online piracy and trade of substandard products that pose a risk to the safety and health of citizens is therefore a key priority for law enforcement authorities like Europol. And Europol decided to contact eCrime, the research group of the Faculty of Law of the University of Trento.
Europol and eCrime, in fact, have recently signed in The Hague a memorandum of understanding to fight counterfeiting. The agreement was signed during the conference that presented the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3), a new joint effort by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to protect intellectual property rights. The coalition, that hinges on Europol, will provide operational and technical support to law enforcement agencies and their partners engaged in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy online and offline.
The agreement between Europol and the Faculty of Law of the University (eCrime) was signed, respectively, by Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, and Antonino Alì, associate professor of international law and member of eCrime. Andrea Di Nicola, aggregate professor of criminology and scientific coordinator of eCrime, and Gabriele Baratto, researcher at eCrime and vice project-manager of the European project “Fakecare”, coordinated by eCrime, were also present.
The representatives of the two parties who are responsible for the implementation of the agreement are Andrea Di Nicola and Chris Vansteenkiste, director of IPC3.
“With this memorandum – commented Andrea Di Nicola - we establish a direct link between eCrime (UniTrento) and Europol to promote joint initiatives, provide expertise, analyze and exchange data and trends, and cooperate to plan and carry out projects for the protection of intellectual property rights. Over the next years, the outcomes of eCrime applied research will be extended to other actors at European level who will use them in real life scenarios to protect the safety of citizens and companies. This agreement strengthens the collaboration relationship that emerged with Europol’s interest in “Fakecare”, a European project coordinated by eCrime that developed knowledge and novel tools to prevent and combat the online trade of counterfeit medicinal products”.
The major public and private entities in the industry, at European and global level, attended the conference. Besides the agreement signed with eCrime (the only academic institution), Europol signed other four agreements: with IACC (International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition), UL (Underwriters laboratories), ETICS (European Testing Inspection and Certification System) and AAPA (Audiovisuals Anti-Piracy Alliance).