2014 EU Action Plan for Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement

A recent study conducted by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market has estimated that intellectual property rights (IPR) related sectors account for around 39% of EU GDP (around 4.7 trillion EUR annually) and up to 35% of all jobs.

Patent applications, registered EU trademarks and trademark applications have doubled since 2003, which suggests that the legal and administrative framework is meeting the market requirements and, an all in all positive trend regarding the consolidation of the EU market. However, the matter of protecting applicants and consumers from IPR infringements across the EU Community has been a tiresome task.

For example, in 2005, EU border officials have encountered about 117,000 cases of suspected trademark infringements. This number has shrunken almost a quarter since then, yet the OECD has estimated that trademark violations currently cost the EU roughly 200 billion EUR a year.

To battle this problem, the EU Commission presented a new, ten point Action Plan in July, which aims at involving all the relevant stakeholders to renew the consensus on how IPR are exercised.

Action 1: The Commission intends to promote the efforts of the Observatory on Infringements of IPRs and national authorities to launch and monitor a new generation of targeted communication campaigns. This strives to raise awareness amongst citizens on the economic harm caused by commercial scale IP infringements, especially on the potential health and safety risks associated with IPR-infringing products.

Action 2: A series of consultation actions on applying due diligence throughout supply chains as a means to prevent commercial scale IPR infringements will be launched. This action will involve the relevant Institutions on the EU level as well as citizens. The collected information will then be used to develop an “EU due-diligence scheme”, which, in turn, should indicate if further initiatives are required.

Action 3: The Commission will facilitate the development of further voluntary Memoranda of Understanding to reduce the profits of commercial scale IPR infringements in the online environment, following stakeholder dialogues involving advertising service providers, payment services and shippers.

Action 4: The Commission intends to analyze and report on existing national initiatives seeking to improve IPR civil enforcement procedures for small and medium sized enterprises, especially in respect to low value claims and consider possible action in this field.

Action 5: The Commission will issue a Green Paper to consult stakeholders on the need for future EU action based on the best practice found in nationally financed schemes assisting small and medium sized enterprises to enforce their IPRs.

Action 6: The Commission will issue a Green paper to consult stakeholders on the impact of chargeback and related schemes to tackle commercial scale IP infringements. On this basis, it will explore the need and scope for taking concrete action in this field.

Action 7: The Commission will establish a Member State Expert Group on IPE Enforcement, where Member States will be able to share best practice on the work within the EU of all their concerned authorities and be informed on the delivery of the Action Plan.

Action 8: The Commission will support the Observatory on Infringements of IPRs in the development of a comprehensive set of sectoral IP enforcement related training programs for Member State authorities in the context of the Single Market.

Action 9: The Commission intends to develop, promote and publish a guide on best practice for public authorities to avoid purchasing counterfeit products.

Action 10: The Commission shall publish a biennial report on the economic impact of the EU’s IP policy that could serve as a more effective monitoring tool for the EU’s new IPR enforcement policy.

This Action Plan will be implemented in 2014 and 2015. The European Parliament, the Council, the Member States, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Observatory on Infringements of IPRs are all invited by the EU Commission to contribute actively to the effort. The Commission will monitor the delivery of the Action Plan and, if needed, promote and propose that legislative matters are determined which will ensure its implementation.