Saturday, 16 January 2010

EU: “Manifold initiatives” for enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR)

The blog post Innovating Europe and the knowledge society (15 January 2010) looked at what the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union held in store for the knowledge society (European Digital Agenda) generally. In a nutshell: positive, but vague.

Now we turn to what the presidency programme tells us more specifically about intellectual property rights:

The Programme for the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 1 January – 30 June 2010: Innovating Europe (52 pages).


Under the Common Trade Policy, on page 25, Spain makes the following promise:

The Markets Access Strategy will be bolstered and work will be geared to opening Public Tender markets, effective effective observance of intellectual and industrial property rights, and the conclusion of the Trade Agreement against Forgery.

This leaves us with some questions: Does the “Trade Agreement against Forgery” mean the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)? If this is the case, why not use the proper name of the treaty soon being negotiated in a new round in Mexico?

Criminal sanctions

Criminal sanctions are in the pipeline against infringements of intellectual property rights. Under Criminal justice, the following paragraph seems to promise new legislative proposals (page 32):

Protection instruments in the fight against intellectual and industrial property piracy should also be improved.

Internal market?

Under the Domestic Market (probably meaning the internal market) the presidency programme sets out the objective to reinforce IPR protection by “manifold initiatives” (page 35-36) (The Community brand name probably means trademark):

Safeguarding and protecting intellectual and industrial rights will be reinforced at Community level through manifold initiatives in the fight against piracy and forgery. With regard to industrial property, work will continue on the Community brand name file. As to the Community patent and the litigation system for the European patent, a constructive search for efficient and non-discriminatory solutions will be pursued, renewing efforts to improve companies’ management of these rights, particularly by SMEs.


Better protection of intellectual and industrial property rights are promised on the Internet as well, under Telecommunications (page 38):

Efforts will be put into the approval of the New 2010-2015 Strategy to promote the Information Society (i2010 follow-up). The Presidency will encourage a joint debate with Member States to improve Information Society indicators, as well as the deployment of cutting-edge networks, increased networks security and protection of intellectual and industrial property on the Internet.

Citizens’ rights?

“Manifold initiatives” are in the pipeline to enhance IPR protection in the European Union, with regard to external trade, criminal law, the internal market and the Internet.

The lack of transparency is worrying with regard to ACTA, a resurrected IPRED2 and other future proposals.

Even if the Spanish presidency programme is full of references to human rights and fundamental freedoms, users’ rights in the digital era are exempt, except for the promised debate on broadband access as a universal service obligation (page 38).

There are no guarantees of a fair deal for consumers and citizens against unduly restrictive commercial practices or draconic enforcement measures.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Stephen Spillane blogs about Irish and European politics. Stephen Spillane is one of the more than 500 great euroblogs on steadily growing multilingual, a useful one-stop-shop for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs, i.a. politics, policies, communication, economics, finance and law.