Important EU Commission initiatives in the IP sector

Two recent EU Commission initiatives deserve the attention of the IP sector.

On November 25, the Commission presented an  Action Plan to address infringements of intellectual property rights in the EU and a Strategy for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in third countries . The Commission underlines that industries, which make intensive use of IP, play an essential role in the EU economy and offer valuable and sustainable jobs to society. IPR-intensive industries currently account for almost 45% of Europe’s GDP and directly contribute to the creation of almost 30% of all jobs. IPR-intensive industries also account for 93% of total EU exports of goods to the rest of the world. Many of Europe’s industrial ecosystems cannot thrive without effective IP protection and tools to trade intangible assets.

This is why, there should be particular concern over the increase in IP infringements. The illegal use of IP deprives the right holders of their income and even more importantly, discourages and prevents the future development of IP-protected content. Infringements of IPR are a matter of high relevance to the EU, given that they have considerable potential of harming businesses and the market as a whole. According to OECD data(1), the annual loss from IPR infringements to the world economy is around €200 billion. In 2012 alone, EU border control agencies registered 90,000 cases of goods suspected of infringing intellectual property rights (compared to fewer than 27,000 in 2005).

Five main challenges have been identified in the Action Plan:

(1) despite the considerable progress, part of the EU’s IP system remains too fragmented, with procedures that are complex and costly and that sometimes lack clarity

(2) too many companies, in particular SMEs, and too many researchers do not make full use of the opportunities offered by IP protection

(3) tools to facilitate access to IP (and therefore allow the take up and diffusion of technologies) are insufficiently developed

(4) counterfeiting and piracy are thriving, including by taking advantage of digital technologies in spite of the continued efforts to turn the tide

(5) there is lack of fair play at global level and EU businesses often lose out when operating abroad.

In light of the above challenges, the Commission has set forth several priorities in its Action Plan:

    ‣ ensure that EU innovators have access to fast, effective and affordable protection tools

    ‣ promote an effective use and deployment of IP, in particular by SMEs

    ‣ assure easier access to and sharing of IP-protected assets

    ‣ foster effective enforcement of IP rights

    ‣ ensure an effective and balanced judicial redress

    ‣ ensure a level playing field globally

    ‣ engage Member States and stakeholders in the implementation of the plan

    On November 23, the Commission announced the opening of infringement procedures against 23 Member States for failing to transpose the Directive on audiovisual content. The deadline to transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into national legislation was 19 September 2020. To date, the only countries that have notified the transposition measures and declared their notification complete are Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden. Letters of formal notice have been sent to all other Member States requesting information on the advancement of the transposition process. The two-month deadline for response is currently running. The Audiovisual Media Services Directive was revised in order to reflect the significant changes occurring in the sector and especially the growing share of IP content that is disseminated by online platforms. The main goal of the Directive is to create and ensure the proper functioning of a single European market for audiovisual media services, while contributing to the promotion of cultural diversity, providing an adequate level of consumer protection and safeguarding media pluralism.

    (1) Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, OECD and EUIPO, 2019