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EC steps up IP protection

December 1, 2017

By Colin Mann

The European Commission has presented measures to ensure that intellectual property rights are well protected, thereby encouraging European companies, in particular SMEs and start-ups, to invest in innovation and creativity.

The EC said the initiatives would make it easier to act efficiently against breaches of intellectual property rights, facilitate cross-border litigation, and tackle the fact that 5 per cent of goods imported into the EU (worth €85 billion) are counterfeited or pirated. The Commission also encourages licensing negotiations which are fair and balanced in rewarding companies for their innovation while allowing also others to build on this technology to generate new innovative products and services.

“Europe’s economic growth and competitiveness largely depends on our many entrepreneurs – from start-ups to large companies – investing in new ideas and knowledge,” commented Vice-President Jyrki Katainen (pictured), responsible for Jobs, Growth Investment and Competitiveness. “The comprehensive package we are presenting today improves the application and enforcement of intellectual property rights and encourages investment in technology and product development in Europe.”

“Today we boost our collective ability to catch the ‘big fish’ behind fake goods and pirated content which harm our companies and our jobs – as well as our health and safety in areas such as medicines or toys,” declared Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska. “We are also placing Europe as a global leader with a patent licensing system that is conducive to the roll-out of the Internet of Things from smartphones to connected cars.”

The measures adopted include:

Stepping up the fight against counterfeiting and piracy: The Commission seeks to deprive commercial-scale IP infringers of the revenue flows that make their criminal activity lucrative – this is the so-called ‘follow the money’ approach which focuses on the ‘big fish’ rather than individuals. It also ensures that enforcement actions are adapted to the requirements of today’s digital age. With the initiatives, the Commission aims to:

  • Ensure an equally high level of legal protection and a predictable judicial framework across the EU.New guidance provides clarification on how to apply the 2004 Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRED). The Directive has proved a relevant tool in fighting intellectual property rights (IPR) abuse, but there have been differing interpretations among Member States of some of its provisions over the years. The guidance clarifies these interpretation issues, which will increase legal certainty for all stakeholders and facilitate civil enforcement across the EU straight away, without the need for new legislation. In addition, the Commission calls on Member States to step up their efforts by boosting judicial training, systematically publishing judgements on IP cases and encouraging alternative dispute resolution tools
  • Encourage industry to fight IP infringements. Building on the positive experiences under the Memorandum of Understanding on the sale of counterfeit goods via the Internet, the Commission continues to support industry-led initiatives to combat IP infringements, including voluntary agreements on advertising on websites, on payment services and on transport and shipping. Such agreements can lead to faster action against counterfeiting and piracy than court actions. They complement recent Commission guidelines for online platforms to tackle illegal content.
  • Reduce the volume of counterfeited products reaching the EU market. The Commission proposes to reinforce cooperation programmes with third countries (China, South-East Asia, Latin America) and create a watch-list of markets that are reported to engage in, or facilitate, substantial IPR infringement. The Commission will publish an updated report on IPR enforcement in third countries. The Commission will step up co-operation between EU customs authorities, notably by assessing the implementation of the EU Customs Action Plan on IP infringements for 2013-2017 and proposing more targeted assistance to national customs authorities.

Creating a fair and balanced system for Standard Essential Patents: Many key technologies that are part of global industry standards (such as WiFi or 4G) are protected by Standard Essential Patents (SEPs). Today the Commission offers guidance and recommendations for a balanced and efficient SEPs system where two objectives are reconciled: product manufacturers can access technologies under transparent and predictable licensing rules; and at the same time patent-holders are rewarded for their investments in R&D and standardisation activities so that they are incentivised to offer their best technologies for inclusion in standards. More transparency and predictability should give the EU – including its many start-ups – a head-start in the global technological innovation race and fully grasp the potential of 5G and the Internet of Things.

The Commission will closely monitor the progress on the proposed measures and assess the need for further steps.


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