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Brussels looks to strengthen IPR protection

Brussels looks to strengthen IPR protection

Image by Mohamed Hassan - Pixabay

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission signalled its intention Thursday to crack down on intellectual property rights infringements, which it says cost European firms billions of euros in lost revenue and put jobs at risk.

A Commission report on protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in third countries, published on 9 January, finds that, 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.

"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," said the Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan: "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," Mr Hogan added.

The report identifies three groups of countries on which the EU will focus its action.

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 Commission says 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 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.

Industries that use intellectual property intensively accounted for some 84 million European jobs and 45% of the total EU GDP in the period 2014-2016. 82% of EU exports were generated by the industries intensively using intellectual property. In these sectors, the EU has a trade surplus of around 182 billion euros. An estimated 121 billion euros or 6.8% of all imports into the EU, are counterfeit or pirated.

Report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries


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