Top e-commerce sites escape inclusion on EC’s piracy watch list

The European Commission has published a new edition of its Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List, which names websites and physical marketplaces that are suspected of enabling “substantial” counterfeiting and piracy.

The focus is on websites providing copyright-protected content, e-commerce platforms, online pharmacies and physical marketplaces that operate outside the EU. The list, which is analogous to the Special 301 Notorious Markets list published by the US Trade Representative (USTR), was first published in 2018.

The EC notes that in the e-commerce category that covers sites selling counterfeit goods, there were a lot of nominations platforms operated by Alibaba (eg Aliexpress, Tmall, and Taobao), as well as Amazon and eBay, although these have not made it into the new document.

“Stakeholders reported…this year that, despite their efforts, a significant volume of counterfeit goods allegedly remain available on these platforms damaging, among others, the creative, electronics, crops, fashion, musical instruments, sport, food, luxury, cosmetics and toys industries,” says the report.

Despite that, the EC concluded that the platforms’ compliance with EU guidance on tackling online illegal content, efforts to implement enforcement tools to “prevent and filter counterfeit offers”, and collaboration with IP rights holders kept them from inclusion.

It warns however that “further progress is needed to ensure that offers of counterfeit goods disappear from these platforms or are significantly reduced.”

Comments received by stakeholders during the consultation phase urge the platforms to carry out more thorough identity checks of the vendors, and to close the accounts of those hiding behind anonymity.

They also want automated takedown tools for counterfeit listings to be more effective, measures put in place to prevent vendors with suspended accounts simply setting up new ones to continue infringing, and improvements to brand protection programmes to make them more user-friendly.

According to the EU Intellectual Property Office and the OECD, trade in counterfeit and pirated products amounts annually to around €460bn ($563bn) worldwide.

The EU is particularly hard hit, with counterfeit and pirated products amounting up to around 6.8 per cent of all imports – equivalent to €121bn a year.

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