The Italian Budget Law (Law 24 December 2003 no.350, the so-called Legge Finanziaria 2004) which was published in the Italian Official Gazette on 27 December 2003 and entered into force on 1 January 2004 has introduced provisions to enhance the protection of and prevent infringement of intellectual property rights.

In particular, it has increased the powers available to the Customs Authority and to various administrative bodies, in order to protect intellectual property rights. Article 4, paragraph 50 provides for the creation, inside the Customs area, of an image processing centre which will be equipped with hi-tech scanners and image databases. This image processing centre can also provide information to the Customs Authority of EEA countries in relation to goods coming from non EEA countries and destined for EEA countries where there is a concern that the goods could infringe the dispositions protecting the Made in Italy origin indication.

The Customs Authority is now also allowed to liaise with the owners of intellectual property rights and to agree what information can be held on a database, for example, particular features and characteristics of the products.

As far as the administrative bodies are concerned, the Budget Law 2004 provides that such bodies can report to the Judicial Authority when they come to know about an illegal use of products infringing intellectual property rights. The administrative bodies have also been given powers to directly seize and, after three months, to destroy these alleged infringing goods. The possibility to seize and destroy, nevertheless, is subordinated by a previous detailed report to the Judicial Authority “served” by the administrative body, and approved by the previous authority. Regardless, the Italian Budget Law, guarantees the rights for the alleged infringer whose goods have been seized by the administrative body to oppose their destruction, by filing a petition in the modes and terms provided by law 24 November 1981, n. 689.

The Italian Budget Law also designates a fund for the promotion of the “Made in Italy” indication and consequently, the “Made in Italy” products. Article 4, paragraph 61 proposes that a regulation be adopted into Italian law to create a specific trade mark to protect products of Italian origin and to establish the requirements of its use (of the trade mark).

Article 4, paragraph 49 provides that the use of the “Made in Italy” indication on products and goods not originating from Italy and the use of any signs, symbols or any other element that could lead the customer to think that goods of a foreign origin are of an Italian origin are criminal offences under Article 517 of the Criminal Code. Article 517 states that anyone who offers or otherwise puts into circulation, intellectual works or industrial products with names, trade marks or distinctive signs able to mislead the buyer on the origin, provenance, quality of the work or product shall be punished.