Counterfeiters to cost Europe '£200bn'

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The Independent Online

Counterfeiters will cost Europe one million jobs and more than £200 billion in "legitimate revenue" in the next five years, it was warned today.

Liberal Democrat MEP Bill Newton-Dunn, awarding prizes in a schools competition highlighting the threat from fake and pirated goods, commented: "The World Cup is a reminder of just how rife the fakes market is. The UK Border Agency had already seized thousands of fake football shirts at Coventry's international postal hub by the start of June."

Mr Newton-Dunn, co-chairman of the European Parliament's Forum Against Counterfeit, Contraband and Organised Crime, went on: "But this isn't just about profits, it's about safety too. When you buy a fake product, it's always a risk - especially if you don't know the item is a copy.

"From medicines to chainsaws and brake pads, fakes are all around us and we need to raise awareness and counter that trend."

He called for "joined-up policing" across the EU, coupled with tighter intellectual property laws.

Schools were invited to join a competition to design a logo for the new European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, set up by the European Commission this year to streamline the campaign against the rising tide - and type - of counterfeit goods.

Today the winners, from Greece, Spain and Poland, were feted at a ceremony at the European Parliament in Brussels involving MEPs, EU Commissioner Michel Barnier, fashion designer and former model Yasmin Le Bon, and Philippe Lacoste, vice president of Unifab - an international association of companies fighting counterfeiting.

Mr Barnier told the event: "Everyone can contribute to the fight against the trade in fake and pirated goods, which threaten our safety and our personal and economic health."

He said it was vital to raise awareness among young people about the impact of fake goods and the need to protect intellectual property rights.

According to the latest OECD figures, the international trade in counterfeit goods reached £170 billion in 2007.

In 2008 EU customs officials intercepted more than 178 million counterfeited or pirated articles - compared with 79 million articles in 2007.

The Commission says the Observatory will increase cross-border counter-measures through the exchange of best practice on enforcement techniques: "The Observatory is a central resource for gathering, monitoring and reporting essential data and information that will improve the EU's knowledge about the dangers of counterfeiting and piracy," said a spokesman.