Fabian Demicoli

EU Commission communication: An Industrial Property Rights Strategy in Europe

 The European Commission has recently published a document on the issue of industrial property rights. We are expecting that an EU consultation exercise specifically on trademarks shall be initiated later on this year, thus it is evident that some legislative action on this front is in the pipeline.

The Communication outlines a number of points, particularly the need for a Community patent (ie. one patent covering the whole Union), and the need for an integrated EU-wide jurisdictional system to improve dispute settlement and legal clarity. It however also speaks of the "vitality" of patents driving invention, rather than patent offices being inundated with non-innovative applications. The European Commission is expected to conduct a comprehensive study on patent quality and is inviting Member States to assess their methods' contribution to innovation.

The Commission is also set to evaluate the current trademark system which could then lead to a review of the system. As indicated earlier, consultations with stakeholders are to be expected, including within the European Business Test Panel setup (to sign-up: http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ipm/forms/dispatch?form=250&lang=en).

With regard to agricultural produce, the European Commission is indicating that it shall publish a Green Paper on agricultural product quality covering product standards, production requirements and quality schemes in the framework of a geographical indication system. It is also planning to conduct an assessment (once again involving stakeholders) on the feasibility of geographical indication protection on non-agricultural products.

The document also speaks on transparent procedures during standard-setting processes, the problems caused by abusive practices and its plans to study IPR and standards vis-à-vis innovation as well as standardisation in the ICT sector.

For SMEs the emphasis is laid on better access to registration (which includes a possible review of the fee structure for a Community patent), dispute resolution, enforcement of rights and rights management (where China's IPR helpdesk may be assessed).

The Commission also speaks of further action by Customs authorities, raising public awareness to change public perception of counterfeits and pirated goods (among many measures being contemplated including reducing internet traffic in the fight against counterfeits), and working with third countries and the international community on various fronts.

The European Commission's Communication can be obtained by contacting Abigail Mamo @ GRTU. Please do not hesitate forward to us any comments you might have.

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