The European Commission last Monday formally adopted the European Union's Enforcement Directive, which provides a legal framework against piracy and counterfeiting.

BRUSSELS--The European Commission last Monday formally adopted the European Union's Enforcement Directive, which provides a legal framework against piracy and counterfeiting.

The new legislation on intellectual property now gives EU governments more power to stamp out pirates. The law is set to come into force within two years. It now has to pass through national legislatures in all EU countries. All member states must have fully implemented the legislation by May 2006.

EU internal market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein says he was pleased the directive was adopted before the EU enlarges, on May 1, to include 10 more countries.

"The Directive will give the Europe of 25 much stronger defenses against counterfeiting and piracy, which are a modern economic plague increasingly linked to organized crime," he says. "When intellectual property rights are not respected, there is less investment in innovative industries, research and cultural promotion. That means everyone in Europe loses out."

The law covers movies, music, software, toys, and pharmaceuticals as well as patents, copyrights, trademarks and registered designs.

Measures include seizing suspicious bank accounts, forcing offenders to pay damages to victims of piracy and withdrawing fake goods from the market at the offender's expense. Right holders can claim the destruction, recall or permanent removal from the market of illegal goods, as well as financial compensation, injunctions and damages.

Governments will also have to step up their co-operation with other capitals and with the European Commission to make current prevention systems more effective.

At the European Parliament's request, the original reference to criminal sanctions for pirating goods has been scrapped. However, the Commission has indicated that it is still attached to these elements from its original proposal and "will examine the possibility" of reintroducing sanctions in the future.