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Industrial Property Rights Strategy for Europe - guide

16 July 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 16 July 2008

The European Commission adopted on 16 July two initiatives in the area of copyright. First, the Commission proposes to align the copyright term for performers with that applicable to authors, in this way bridging the income gap that performers face toward the end of their lives. Second, the Commission proposes to fully harmonise the copyright term that applies to co-written musical compositions. In parallel, the Commission also adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The consultation document focuses on topics that appear relevant for the development of a modern economy, driven by the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information. Both of these initiatives comprise a unique mix of social, economic and cultural measures aimed at maintaining Europe as a prime location for cultural creators in the entertainment and knowledge sectors.


1. What are industrial property rights?
Intellectual property rights refer to the rights associated with creations of the mind like inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, and designs. Intellectual property is usually divided into two categories: copyright and industrial property. Copyright includes literary and artistic creations like novels, poems, paintings, music and photographs. Industrial property rights include patents for inventions, trade marks, industrial designs, plant variety rights, and geographical indications.

2. Why are industrial property rights important for Europe?
Protection of intellectual (and industrial) property is a key framework condition for innovation, stimulating R&D investment and transfer of knowledge from the laboratory to the marketplace. For example patents give an incentive to innovate by awarding an exclusive right to use a new invention for a limited period. European businesses need strong industrial property rights to maintain their competitive advantage in the global economy through innovation.

3. Why do we need action at EU level?
Protection for most industrial property rights exists at EU level. A coherent policy is therefore necessary for European businesses to benefit fully from opportunities within the Single Market. The Communication mentions where action is more appropriate at Member State level.

4. Why does the Communication focus on industrial property rights, what about copyright?
The Communication is part of a package on intellectual property rights adopted by the Commission at the same time. The other elements are a proposal to extend the term of copyright on sound recordings and a Green Paper on copyright in the knowledge-economy, which intends to launch a consultation process. However, the Communication does include copyright in order to present a coherent picture on the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, where issues concerned by industrial property and copyright are interlinked.

5. What subjects does the Communication cover?
The Communication sets out a coherent framework for different categories of industrial property rights. Subjects covered include the quality of industrial property rights, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. These are covered with relation to action in the EU and the international dimension with third countries.

6. What are the main actions in the Communication?
The Communication proposes studies, consultations and other non-legislative initiatives. Examples include improved cooperation within and between Member States to fight against counterfeiting and piracy, a study on patent quality in Europe, and assessment of the potential for continued and expanded support for SMEs in third countries.

7. How does this all relate to the Community patent?
Last year, the Commission launched a Communication "Enhancing the patent system in Europe". This has revitalised the discussion on the Community patent and jurisdiction system towards finding solutions on patents. This Communication on industrial property rights is a wider reflection on future initiatives. It does not deal with the Community patent and jurisdiction, but nevertheless stresses the importance of an urgent adoption of the Community patent for EU competitiveness.

8. Why is the Commission launching this Communication now?
A strong and balanced IPR system is a driving force for promoting innovation and improving competitiveness. In the 2008-2010 cycle of the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, the investment in knowledge and innovation is one of the four priority areas for focused actions. In order for Europe to respond to the challenges of the global economy, a strategy on industrial property rights is needed to ensure a high-quality, affordable, consistent and balanced system.

9. What consultation has taken place in formulating the strategy?
On patents, the Commission conducted a consultation on the future of patent system in Europe in 2006. The Communication is a general strategy covering the full range of industrial property rights. Further stakeholder consultation will take place on the specific individual actions

Source: European Commission
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