The IPKat's Belgian friend Marius Schneider (a partner in the Brussels, Belgium firm of Eeman & Partners) has written with some good news.
Left: the real Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and, right, one of a consignment of lookalikes, probably manufactured in China and transported by truck through the Balkans before ending up for sale in the shady backstreets of Antwerp ...
Says the good Marius:
"1 October 2007 marked the entry into force of the Belgian law of 15 May 2007 on counterfeiting and piracy.Merpel says, should we tell the Belgians? The heart of Europe is not Belgium but a real hotspot - Niedermittlauer Heiligenkopf, in the district of Gelnhausen, near Frankfurt (see link here).
Belgium, a small country in the heart of the European Union, is notorious as a platform in the traffic of counterfeited goods. This is to some extent due to its infrastructure: the port of Antwerp is the second largest container harbour in the EU and Belgium has important freight airports like Brussels and Liège. Another reason is the lax legislation against counterfeiting in force in Belgium until now: the law in effect prior to 1 October 2007 dated back to 1879 (sic) and provided for a maximum penalty of €11,000 or a prison sentence of a maximum of just months. The entry into force of the Belgian law of 15 May 2007 radically changes this situation.
Under the new law every infringement or attempted infringement of a trade mark, patent, SPC, design right, or plant variety right will be subject to criminal sanctions. The substantive element of the offence is defined in the same way as under civil law and the infringement must be committed in the course of trade. The intent element is that of malicious or fraudulent intent (for the latter it is sufficient to show that the offender intended to profit from the infringement). Offences are punishable by prison terms of three months to three years and/or fines from €550 to 550,000. Further penalties such as the forfeiture of the infringing goods, the transfer of the mould and matrices to the injured party, the publication of court decisions and the closure of establishments are provided for.
Furthermore, every infringement of Regulation (1383/2003, by importing goods infringing an intellectual property right into the EU, will also be a criminal offence. The cross-border traffic in counterfeit products becomes a ‘customs offence’ under the General Law on Customs and Excise. Penalties will range from three months to three years and/or €500 to 500,000. In the case of contraband and the use of hide-outs, the authorities may seize the vehicles used. Anyone involved may be detained on suspicion. In the event that nobody claims ownership of the goods, or if the goods are worth less than €250, they can be seized without judgement.
Since 1 October 2007 new officers have been empowered to track counterfeiters: customs officers and agents of the Ministry of Economic Affairs are competent to carry out controls throughout the entire country. They have widespread inspection and search powers and can issue warnings and propose transactions to infringers.
The new law is expected to be a step forward in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Concerns have however been raised that the introduction of criminal sanctions for every infringement of an intellectual property right may lead to the criminal prosecution of honest economic operators".
By PLT Notification No. 18 the Kingdom of Sweden has deposited its instrument of ratification of the Patent Law Treaty. This Treaty enters into force with respect to Sweden on 27 December 2007, bringing the number of PLT-active nations up to a satisfying 16.
The aim of the PLT is to harmonize formal procedures such as the requirements to obtain a filing date for a patent application, the form and content of a patent application, and representation.
It's good to see the Swedes go for the PLT, says the IPKat, since that country - with a very small population and VERY long winter nights - has a superb inventive record. Great Swedish inventors include Alfred Nobel (dynamite), Volvo employee Nils Ivar Bohlin (three-point safety belt for cars), Victor Hasselblad (Hasselblad 6x6 cm single-lens reflex camera), Helge Palmcrantz (the Nordenfelt machine gun), Baltzar von Platen (the father of the modern gas-absorption refrigerator) and Erik Wallenberg (the Tetra Pak carton).
Left: the IPKat samples the delights of MJAU wet cat food, kept delectably moist and fresh in its Tetra Pak package.