Property rights

Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights

Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (also known as "(IPR) Enforcement Directive") is a European Union directive in the field of intellectual property law, made under the internal market provisions of the Treaty of Rome. The directive covers the remedies that are available in the civil courts, but not criminal offenses.

Under Article 3(1), Members States can be censured in the European Court of Justice if their civil procedures on the infringement of intellectual property rights are "unnecessarily complicated or costly, or entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays". Otherwise the Directive harmonizes the rules on standing, evidence, interlocutory measures, seizure and injunctions, damages and costs and judicial publication.

Subject-matter and scope

The Directive requires all Member States to apply effective, dissuasive and proportionate remedies and penalties against those engaged in counterfeiting and piracy. Thus, the purpose of the instrument is to regulate enforcement of intellectual property rights, not the rights themselves. The Directive leaves unaffected the substantive provisions on intellectual property, international obligations of the Member States and national provisions relating to criminal procedure and criminal enforcement. In short, the Directive adds extra measures on enforcement of digital copyright while leaving national law in other areas unaffected.

The subject-matter of the Directive is defined in Article 1. It applies to enforcement of intellectual property rights which include industrial property rights. The scope of the Directive is defined in Article 2. It applies to all infringements of IP rights in Community and national law, without precluding more stringent protection that the Community or national law may otherwise grant.

The general obligation in the Directive is to provide for remedies necessary to enforce intellectual property rights. These shall be “fair and equitable” and must not be “complicated or costly, or entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays”. They must furthermore be effective, proportionate and dissuasive and must not act as barriers to trade.

The persons who are entitled to apply for the remedies are primarily the holder of intellectual property right, but also any person authorized to use it, such as licensees and intellectual property rights. Collective rights management and professional defense bodies may also have the right under certain circumstances.


Section 2 of the Directive deals with the evidence. Article 6 gives the power to the interested party to apply for evidence regarding an infringement that lies in the hands of the other party to be presented. The only requirement is for that party to present “reasonably available evidence sufficient to support its claim” to courts. In case of an infringement on a commercial scale, Member States must also take steps to ensure that “banking, financial or commercial documents” of the opposing party are presented. In both cases confidential information shall be protected.

Measures for preserving evidence are available even before the proceedings commence. Article 7 provides that such measures may be granted under the same conditions as under Article 6 and include provisional measures such as physical seizure not only of the infringing goods (such as hard drives) but also materials used in the production and distribution.

Article 6 provides that such measures may be taken without the other party having been heard, in particular where any delay is likely to cause irreparable harm to the rightholder or where there is a demonstrable risk of evidence being destroyed. These are interlocutory, ex parte and in personam orders known in the English and Irish jurisdictions as Anton Piller orders. They are not used outside the UK and Ireland.

Provisional and precautionary measures

At the request of an applicant, the judicial authorities may issue an interlocutory injunction to prevent an “imminent infringement” of intellectual property rights or to prevent a continuing infringement. In the latter case, the order may be followed with a recurring penalty payment or lodging of a guarantee intended to compensate the rightholder (paragraph a). An injunction can also be issued, under the same conditions, against an intermediary, but these are covered in Article 8(2) of the Information Society Directive and are, in principle, subject to national law.

Apart from the ordinary injunctions of the previous paragraph there also exist the so-called Mareva injunctions in Article 9(2). In common law, these are ex parte and in personam orders used to freeze assets to prevent abuses of process. They can be issued as worldwide injunctions, preventing worldwide dispersal. In that case, their effectiveness depends on their in personam character, as a party who is found to be guilty of disposing of assets will be held to be in contempt of court. Like Anton Piller orders, their use is confined mostly to the UK.

Article 9(2) provides that, in the case of an infringement on a commercial scale, judicial authorities may order a precautionary seizure of “movable and immovable property” which includes freezing the bank accounts and other assets. This may only be done if the applicant demonstrates that it is likely that recovery of damages will be endangered. Further to that, documents relating to banking and other financial transaction may be communicated.


The provisions of the Directive were due to be implemented in all member states of the European Union by 29 April 2006. However, a number of states have not completed the necessary steps.

The Directive has been implemented into United Kingdom law by the Intellectual Property (Enforcement, etc.) Regulations 2006. It has been implemented in France by the "décret 2008-624" of June 27, 2008. The Swedish government is planning to implement the directive on January 1, 2009.


The Directive has been widely criticised on the account of its allegedly draconian approach, said by some to mimic the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). So strong was the criticism, in fact, in particular from telecommunications industry and parts of computer industry, that the original draft was substantially changed. A number of problems still remain in the final document.

  • Cambridge University’s Ross Anderson
  • ZDNet News
  • BBC Analysis
  • Indymedia on RFID tags

See also


External links

Search another word or see Property rightson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature