The Commission adopted a strategy to revamp the legal framework for Intellectual Property Rights

According to the Commission, in order to boost creativity and innovation it has been set out "blueprint" for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The new rules will enable inventors, creators, users and consumers to adapt better to the new circumstances created by a technological change and to enhance new business opportunities. The new rules will seek the right balance between promoting creation and innovation, in part by ensuring reward and investment for creators and, on the other hand, promoting the widest possible access to goods and services protected by IPR.

The strategy deals with many issues to ensure IPR are covered, from the patent a business needs to protect an invention to tackling the misuse of such inventions via a proposal also adopted which will strengthen action on counterfeiting and piracy. Among the first deliverables of this IPR overall strategy are the proposals for an easier licensing system for so-called "orphan works" that will allow many cultural works to be accessible online, and for a new regulation to reinforce customs actions in fighting trade of IPR infringing goods. The IPR Strategy sets out a series of short- and long-term key policy actions in various areas which include:

  • Customs supervise all trade crossing EU external borders. The Commission proposes a new customs regulation, to further reinforce the legal framework for customs' actions. The proposal also aims to tackle the trade in small consignments of counterfeit goods sent by post as the overwhelming majority of these goods results from internet sales.
  • There is an increasing demand for more streamlined, effective and consistent registration systems regarding trade marks. The Commission intends to present proposals in 2011 to modernise the trade mark system both at EU and national levels and adapt it to the Internet era.
  • The creation of European digital libraries that preserve and disseminate Europe's rich cultural and intellectual heritage is key to the development of the knowledge economy. Therefore, the Commission is also tabling a legislative proposal that will enable the digitisation and online availability of so-called "orphan works" (works like books and newspaper or magazine articles that are still protected by copyright but where the right holders are not known or cannot be located to obtain copyright permissions).
  • Geographical indications (GIs) secure a link between a product's quality and its geographical origin. The Commission will therefore carry out an in-depth analysis of the existing legal framework in the Member States as well as the potential economic impact of protection for non-agricultural GIs in 2011 and 2012.
  • The Commission already launched proposals in April for a unitary patent protection under enhanced cooperation. Meanwhile, work will continue on proposals relating to the creation of a unified and specialised patent court for the classical European patents and the future European patents with unitary effect.
  • In view of the digital Single Market, streamlining copyright licensing and revenue distribution is one of the most important challenges that must be addressed. In the 2nd half of 2011, the Commission will submit a proposal to create a legal framework for the efficient multi-territorial collective management of copyright, in particular in the music sector. It will also establish common rules on the transparent governance and revenue distribution. In the second half of 2011, the Commission will also launch a consultation on the various issues related to the online distribution of audiovisual works.

Between 2005 and 2009, the number of registered cases at the EU borders of goods suspected of infringing IPR increased from 26,704 to 43,572. Meanwhile, the creative industry estimates that piracy has cost the European music, movie, TV and software industry €10 billion and more than 185,000 jobs in 2008. Therefore, the Commission has tabled a regulation to reinforce the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, which it launched in 2009, by entrusting its tasks to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). This will allow the Observatory to benefit from OHIM's intellectual property expertise and strong record of delivery in trade marks and designs. Moreover, in Spring 2012, the Commission will propose to revise the IPR Enforcement Directive. The Directive provides for civil law measures allowing right holders to enforce their intellectual property rights but should be adapted, in particular to meet the specific challenges of the digital environment.