Trademarks, Brands, Patents, Designs, Made in Italy, Copyrights, Competition Law, Contracts and Enforcement

13 luglio 2009

New Criminal Provisions for fighting (?) counterfeiting and piracy

Lorenzo Litta

A very recent bill, "DISEGNO DI LEGGE 1195-B", approved by Parliament only last Thursday -July 9, 2009- for the development and internationalization of Italian companies, will introduce new instruments and special terms to help the growth of economics and reportedly should deeply modify Criminal Enforcement.

In particular the bill will:
- create manufacturing districts and networking events;
- favour the reindustrialization;
- reorganize the tax incentive for companies;
- help the international market and the internationalization of Italian companies;
- promote interventions to develope new technologies and to keep safe the environment;
- strenghten the enforcement of intellectual property;
- increase investments for low energy consumption.

The development of Italian companies will be facilitated by a reorganization of the government system dedicated to.

Going straight to our area of main interest, there are new laws concerning the criminal enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights against counterfeiting and piracy.

In particular the bill will increase punishments against counterfeiters, adding new provisions which complete existing rules (Art. 473 is amended, Art. 474 is amended, Artt. 474 bis and 474 ter are added, Art 517 is amended, Artt. 517 ter and 517 quater are added...).

Furthermore the threshold of criminal prosecution of trademark infringers will be "guilt" instead of "fraud". This means that similar crimes shall not need the intention to infringe of the defendant. In fact, it will be punished whoever "potendo conoscere" (having the possibility to be aware) infringe intellectual or industrial property rights. This new criteria will be valid for all basic criminal provisions enforced in IPR infringements (artt. 473, 474, 517).

However it is not clear whether such provision could be extended also to IPR applications (as it happens with the Law in force) or it is limited to registrations (which would be highly dangerous for IPRs owners, since in Italy IPRs are usually registered 4 years after application).

The bill text will modify also the Intellectual Property Code of 2005 and will introduce the National Anticounterfeiting Council, which will be responsible of coordinating all activities of regional administrations to provide proficiency and balance to IPRs Law enforcement (with similar powers of the removed High Commissioner for Anticounterfeiting and Piracy).

The National Anticounterfeiting Council shall also be empowered to:
- carry out periodical checks of IPRs' infringements; - study new anticounterfeiting remedies; - promote and assist Italian companies for registering and being aware of national, foreign and Community IP regulations; - verify the general quality of exported/imported foods; - plan and develope every year an anticounterfeiting strategy, proving the reached results; - coordinate its activity with similar Offices in other Countries.

Now the Italian Parliament approved conversion into Law of the bill. The bill has been firstly presented on August 5, 2008 to the Parliament, approved on November 4, 2008 by the "Chamber of Deputies" (which is one of the two Chambers that compose the Italian Parliament) and sent to the Senate (the other Chamber of the Italian Parliament) on November 7, 2008 for final approval (which arrived with substantial reviews only in June 2009).

Conversion shall take place 15 days after publication (which is expected soon).

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