The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has welcomed the launch of a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy to fight intellectual property criminals faking its members' products.

The new EU institution, launched last week, has been charged with collecting data on counterfeit goods, raising awareness, promoting discussions on the problem and circulating views and best practice in enforcing intellectual property rights between business and national authorities.

An SWA spokesperson told just-drinks: "It is encouraging to see high level awareness of the need to continue to tackle issues around counterfeit and the protection of intellectual property rights."

Scotch is a prime target for counterfeiters and the spokesperson said that, worldwide, the SWA pursues "up to 70 different legal actions at any one time to tackle unfair competition from imitation products".

Within Europe, there are ongoing legal cases in Spain and Italy.