The proposed EC Directive on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights has been making the news and blogs recently. I have finally managed to read it, and it is scary. The Article 3 of the proposed directive states that:
Member States shall ensure that all intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements, are treated as criminal offences.
Although I agree with the stated purpose of the directive – to send counterfeiters and criminal gangs to jail – I would say that the language is too broad. My worry, and that shared by many people, is that this can be misused by some unscrupulous IP owners to threaten potential competitors. This could make patent infringement into an entirely different field. Imagine a cease-and-desist letter, saying “comply or you’ll go to jail”.
It is true that many firms will not go to these lengths against users, but can we really be assured about that?