European Commission steps up protection of European intellectual property in global markets

European Commissioner Phil Hogan. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

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The European Commission has just published the latest report on protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in third countries. While developments have taken place since the publication of the previous report, concerns persist and a number of areas for improvement and action remain to be addressed. Intellectual property rights infringements worldwide cost European firms billions of euros in lost revenue and put thousands of jobs at risk. Today’s report identifies three groups of countries on which the EU will focus its action.

Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “Protecting intellectual property such as trademarks, patents, or geographical indications is critical for the EU’s economic growth and our ability to encourage innovation and stay competitive globally. As much as 82% of all EU exports is generated by sectors which depend on intellectual property. Infringements of intellectual property, including forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, counterfeiting and piracy threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in the EU every year.  The information gathered in the report will enable us to become even more efficient in protecting EU firms and workers against intellectual property infringements like counterfeiting or copyright piracy.”

The geographical and thematic priorities for the EU action to protect intellectual property rights are based on the level of economic harm to EU companies. The report will help to further focus and target efforts. The updated list of priority countries in the report remains split in three categories reflecting the scale and persistence of problems: 1) China; 2) India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine; 3) Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

China is at the origin of a dominant share of counterfeit and pirated goods arriving in the EU, in terms of both value and volume. More than 80% of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by EU customs authorities come from China and Hong Kong.

A high level of intellectual property protection is a standard element of all EU trade agreements. The Commission also engages in dialogues, working groups and technical programmes with key countries and regions, such as China, Latin America, Southeast Asia or Africa. Specific actions in the past two years included:

  • Technical support for the accession to international treaties in the area of IPR
  • Awareness-raising seminar for small businesses on the importance of IPR
  • Training for customs officers, judges and the police on IPR enforcement
  • Training for patent examiners
  • Training on licensing of protected plant varieties

The Commission is also an active contributor to intellectual property rights protection and enforcement at multilateral levels such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report also puts intellectual property related to plant varieties in the spotlight. Plant breeding can play an important role in increasing productivity and quality in agriculture, whilst minimising the pressure on the environment. The EU wants to encourage investment and research in this area, including in the development of new crops resistant to drought, flood, heat and salinity to better respond to the negative consequences of climate change. Protection of plant varieties becomes therefore one of the Commission priorities in the coming period.

 

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