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EU Strengthens IPR Protection Body

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

27 March 2012

The adoption of a Regulation by the European Parliament (EP) and Council is seen to be the first legislative delivery from the strategy of the European Commission (EC) towards a single market for intellectual property rights (IPR).

IPR infringements are looked on as a growing threat to the European economy. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of registered cases at the European Union (EU) borders of goods suspected of infringing IPR increased from 26,700 to over 80,000. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has estimated that the annual loss to the world economy of this problem is around EUR200bn (USD260bn).

To respond to this phenomenon of IPR infringements, the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy was set up within the EC in 2009, as a platform for coordinating actions to protect IPR across Europe. It is composed of representatives from the public and private sectors.

Under the terms of the Regulation, the Observatory is to be renamed the "European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights", covering all IPR, and its management is now entrusted to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). The OHIM is the EU agency that is responsible for registering trademarks and designs that are valid in all member states, and it has close ties with all of their national IP offices.

The tasks and activities of the OHIM under this Regulation will include enhancing the understanding of the value of IPR; improving the understanding on the impact of infringements of IPR (for example, by establishing a transparent methodology for the collection of independent and reliable data); developing training programmes for people involved in the enforcement of IPR, including in non-EU countries; and disseminating information regarding best practices.

These tasks and activities will be carried out in cooperation with the member states and the EC, and meetings of the Observatory will comprise, on the one hand, representatives of the member states dealing with IPR and, on the other, a broad range of representatives from the private sector (including consumer organisations and the creative industries, such as authors).

The OHIM will draw up an annual work programme for its activities under the Regulation with Observatory representatives, and an annual report on these activities will be submitted to the EP, EC and the member states. After five years, the EC will prepare a report evaluating the impact the Regulation has had on the enforcement of IPR in the European internal market.

Michel Barnier, European Commissioner responsible for the Internal Market and Services, said that “this marks an important step that should allow us to develop a better understanding of the impact of IPR infringements on the EU economy. The new tasks entrusted to OHIM include bringing together public and private sector representatives in a European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, improving data collection, raising public awareness and generally supporting the fight against infringements of IPR".

TAGS: trademarks | European Commission | law | intellectual property | copyright | enforcement | regulation | trade | European Union (EU) | Europe

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