Monday 18 January 2010

EP hearing Michel Barnier: Intellectual property rights

The web pages of the European Parliament are overflowing with written and audiovisual material on the hearings by the EP committees of the Commissioners-designate, although the last scheduled hearings have yet to take place today and tomorrow.

Since the 1957 EEC Treaty of Rome, the common market has been a core aim of European integration. The Lisbon Treaty consistently uses the newer term internal market.

The internal market is envisioned as an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the treaties, notably the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 26(2) TFEU).

The internal market is generally a shared competence between the European Union and the member states (Article 4(2)(a) TFEU).

In other words, the internal market is one of the core responsibilities of the European Commission, and it is one of the heavyweight portfolios within the Commission.

The designated internal market Commissioner for [2009] to 2014 is Michel Barnier, a former Commissioner and MEP, as well as French government minister.

Without going into the recorded hearing with Barnier, we notice that the summary of his hearing brought nothing to light with regard to intellectual property rights (IPR):

Summary of Hearing of Michel Barnier – Internal Market and Services (13 January 2010)

Highly political issues such as the social nature of the internal market and the future of financial regulation dominated the Barnier hearing summary on as well.

In his written answer to the relevant EP committees, Barnier had presented the knowledge based economy as a priority, including the reinforcement of IPR:

Developing a knowledge-based economy: I intend to adapt our intellectual property rights strategy to meet new challenges. The European intellectual property system must be modernised and reinforced in order to promote the knowledge-based economy. I am in favour of an exhaustive and consistent framework for copyright law which will enable us to meet new challenges such as digitisation. Negotiations on the Community patent and the unified patent litigation system must be concluded. To enable European enterprises to realise their full potential for innovation and creation, a modern intellectual property framework is required which will stimulate investment and technological progress and facilitate access to knowledge and its dissemination.

In his written answer Barnier had the following to say regarding IPR when he outlined coming legislative proposals:

In the area of intellectual property rights, I would like to see the development of a consistent legal framework. I will ensure the finalisation of the legislative work on the Community patent and the patent litigation system. I am also planning to modernise the legal framework for trademarks. I intend to reinforce the legal framework relating to the respect of intellectual property rights, which will be further supported by the Counterfeiting and Piracy Observatory.

In the pipeline

We know that intellectual property rights are crucial in the digital age, also as bones of contention. We also know that “manifold initiatives” are in the pipeline to enhance IPR protection in the European Union, with regard to the internal market and criminal law (IPRED2). In parallel with the internal market, secret external trade negotiations are ongoing, with the aim to conclude a plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

To get a picture of the concerns of citizens, users and consumers, it is worthwhile to look at the questions prepared by La Quadrature du Net ahead of the hearing on copyright and freedoms in the digital age (12 January 2010).

Ralf Grahn

J.K. Educate yourself and brush up your language skills by reading EU-related blogs. Valéry-Xavier Lentz writes a blog, where he deals with Internet issues as well as French and EU politics. Growing multilingual already aggregates the posts of more than 500 euroblogs at one convenient address.

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