Sunday, 16 April 2017

European standards, public procurement and intellectual property

In the blog entries Evidence-based European market reforms? and  Services in EU single market strategy, we saw that the analytical staff working document underpinning the reforms was meant to be used in parallel with the condensed single market communication:
A Single Market Strategy for Europe - Analysis and Evidence; Brussels, 28.10.2015 SWD(2015) 202 final (108 pages)
Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business; Brussels, 28.10.2015 COM(2015) 550 final (22 pages)

In this blog post we are going to take a brief look at how these documents deal with European standards, public procurement and intellectual property.  


European standards

Encouraging modernisation and innovation starts with section 3.1 Modernising our standards system, page 12 of the communication and pages 55-58 of the SWD, dealing with a ‘Joint initiative on Standardisation’ and guidance on European service standards.

The aims and benefits of the standardisation initiative were explained like this in the SWD(2015) 202, page 56:

Therefore, the Commission proposes a ‘Joint initiative on Standardisation’ to be concluded with all actors in order to enhance and modernize the current system. The Joint initiative will encompass a joint vision in order to develop solutions to issues arising from servicification, digitalisation and focus on interoperability as a result of the Priority ICT standards plan. It will also explore how the gap between research/innovation priorities and European Standardisation could be analysed in a more systematic and forward looking way and more effectively bridged, as well as how to produce timely standardisation deliverables.

The Joint initiative is a way to enable Europe to become a global standardisation hub. This means keeping a system able to impact on growth (between 0.3 and 0.9 % depending on the current figures registered from different Member States), contributing to the GDP growth, maintaining and increasing competitiveness of the EU economy.

The SWD(2015) 202, page 57, stated that in contrast to goods, the development of service standards has been much more limited, both within member states and at EU level. As a result, service standards account for only 2 % of all EU standards.

Service standards would bring the same kind of benefits as product standards, but national standards may create obstacles to cross-border trade. The Commission promised to explore voluntary European service standards and to issue dedicated guidance as needed:

Dedicated guidance on service standardisation (2016)  


Public procurement

The communication COM(2015) 550 treated More transparent, efficient and accountable public procurement (section 3.2) on pages 13-14, while the supporting SWD(2015) 202 discussed the issues on pages 58-68.  

Despite a new 2014 framework for public procurement, the Commission saw a need for various forms of assistance to authorities in the member states, given the importance of government spending and of procurement aims:

Government expenditure on works, goods and services represents around 19 % of EU GDP, accounting for more than EUR 2.3 trillion annually. Efficient public procurement is key to addressing major policy challenges, including growth and jobs, fiscal discipline, the modernisation of public administration, the fight against corruption and collusion, market access for SMEs, the trust of citizens in public authorities and democracy, innovation and environmentally and socially sustainable growth.

Improved data, ex ante assessment of large infrastructure projects, cooperation among review bodies and better detection of irregularities were among the actions the Commission was going to pursue. In a nutshell:

Public procurement: voluntary ex ante assessment mechanism for large infrastructure projects (2017)

Initiatives for better governance of public procurement through the establishment of contract registers, improved data collection and a networking of review bodies (2017-2018)


Intellectual property

Pages 14-15  of the communication and 68-79 of the working paper encompassed section 3.3. Consolidating Europe’s intellectual property framework, not least because:

IP intensive industries account directly for 26 % of all jobs in the EU and generate almost 39 % of total EU economic activity (GDP). They pay higher remuneration than non-IP intensive industries, with a premium of more than 40 %.  

The section discussed intellectual property (IP) use by SMEs, including trade secrets, the unitary patent and national patents, supplementary protection certificates (SPCs), reviewing the intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement framework (IP infringements), and indications of geographical origin for non-agricultural products.

The bare bones of the promised actions:

Initiatives to modernise the intellectual property rights (IPR) framework, including a review of the EU IP enforcement framework (2016-2017)

On the other hand, copyright is dealt with in the framework of the digital single market:
A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe; Brussels, 6.5.2015 COM(2015) 192 final

See section 2.4 of the communication, Better access to digital content - A modern, more European copyright framework (from page 6).


Ralf Grahn