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McCreevy Discusses Patents, Proposed Copyright Directive Changes

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

23 November 2006

Speaking to the European Parliament's JURI Committee (Committee on Legal Affairs) on Tuesday, Internal Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy stressed the need for compromise with regard to European patent reforms, and discussed planned amendments to the Copyright Directive.

He observed that:

"The protection of intellectual and industrial property - copyrights, patents, trademarks or designs - is at the heart of a knowledge-based economy and central to improving Europe's competitiveness. This is a priority for reform: grounded on sound economics, not just legal concepts, and concentrating on solutions that foster innovation and investment in real life."

"On patents, there is an overwhelming desire for a system which is simpler, more cost-effective and that maintains the highest standards in the quality of its examination and grant procedures. All stakeholders went to great length to convey their views to us. Now, quite rightly, they expect action. This was the gist of my message to the plenary where I addressed this issue on 28 September."

"The Commission will shortly be publishing a Communication setting out our proposals for the short and longer term. The initial focus will be on jurisdictional arrangements. We have carefully assessed Parliament's resolution of 12 October on future patent policy in Europe. I share Parliament's wish to explore all possible ways of improving the patent and patent litigation systems in the EU."

The Commissioner continued:

"I agree that the proposed text for a European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) needs significant improvements in order to bring it in line with Community requirements. I have taken note of concerns about democratic control, judicial independence and litigation costs under the current EPLA proposals. We also believe that there is a need for common implementing provisions such as uniform Rules of Procedure. And we are aware of the constitutional requirements and limitations of certain Member States. The specific concerns of SMEs also need to be taken into account."

"My intention is to harness the momentum in the search for a workable compromise. The Community Patent and the EPLA are not mutually exclusive initiatives, indeed our aim should be to ensure that they eventually converge with the Community patent as the ultimate objective."

"In both cases our goal is the same: a better, cheaper, more reliable patent system. And we need to deliver now in order to catch up with Europe's main competitors in terms of promotion of innovation and competitiveness. That is what industry expects from us."

Moving on to discussed the proposed changes to the European Union's copyright regime, Mr McCreevy announced:

"But intellectual property is not just patents alone. Copyright is economically just as important."

"As you may be aware, the Commission will shortly bring forward an initiative on copyright levies. There has been a great deal of discussion about this measure – not all of it has been well-informed – so I am very pleased to have this opportunity to explain my thinking to the Committee."

"We have monitored the application of the Copyright Directive carefully since its adoption in 2001. We have had several consultation exercises, including on the specific question of fair compensation and copyright levies - I was pleased to send the most recent questionnaire to the Committee before the summer. As a result of this work, we have identified a number of problems."

"Our point of departure is very clear. We are not in any way challenging the fair compensation provisions of the Directive. Where a rights holder suffers harm as a result of the private copy exception, they should be remunerated."

"The Commission has made clear its strong commitment to creativity and innovation, and has stressed the need to have systems in place to ensure that it is properly rewarded. This applies every bit as much in the copyright industries as in any other sector."

He concluded:

"However, we are concerned that the operation of some fair compensation schemes may be disrupting trade in the internal market. We also wonder whether consumers are getting as fair a deal as they should, and whether full account is being taken of the increased use of technological means to protect copyright protected works. We also feel that greater clarity and accountability in how schemes operate is in the best interests of all stakeholders."

"We are looking for a balanced way forward that protects the interests of all concerned – rights holders, industry, consumers. We want a system of compensation that is predictable, fair and sustainable into the future."

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