European Commission announces a new Intellectual Property Rights Strategy

On 24 May 2011, the European Commission announced a new blueprint for Intellectual Property Rights aimed to boost creativity and innovation in the European Union. The Commission’s specific proposals cover a series of policy actions in various areas, including:

  • Patents: According to the Commission, work is underway to create a unitary patent protection for twenty-five Member States (all except for Italy and Spain) and a “unified patent litigation system” allowing patents of any member states to be enforced or revoked throughout the EU territory. Proposals also include the simplification of administrative procedure for getting a patent and the development of machine translation systems in order to save time and money and make patents more affordable for companies of all sizes.
  • Trademarks: Inspired notably by the result of the Max Planck study on European trademarks (see Newsletter 2/2011 p. 8), proposals include the modernization of the system at both European and national levels by (i) simplifying and speeding up the registration procedure, notably through digital means, (ii) increasing legal certainty (notably through a common definition of what should constitute a trade mark at European level), (iii) clarifying the scope of trade marks notably in the customs seizure procedure, (iv) increasing cooperation between the Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (“OHIM”), the trademarks and designs registry for the European Union, and national trademarks offices.
  • Copyrights: the proposal includes inter-alia the creation of a European legal framework for the collective management of copyright to enable multi-territorial and pan-European licensing, notably through the creation of European “rights brokers” able to license and manage the world’s musical repertoire on a multi-territorial level. The Commission is also willing to promote the digitization and on-line availability of the collections of European cultural institutions (libraries, museums and archives), notably by (i) promoting collective licensing schemes for works still protected by copyright but no longer commercially available and (ii) creating a European legislative framework to make available “orphan works” (whose rights holders are not known or cannot be located to obtain copyrights permission).
  • IP rights violations: the Commission is willing to intensify its efforts in this area notably by (i) entrusting the tasks assigned to the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy to the OHIM allowing it to benefit from a more sustainable structure in terms of resources and expertise, (ii) modifying the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive 2004/48 to tackle online infringement more effectively and (iii) revising Regulation 1383/2003 concerning customs action against goods suspected of infringing certain intellectual property rights and the measures to be taken against goods found to have infringed such rights to strengthen enforcement with streamlining procedures. [Béatrice Martinet Farano]