On 25 November 2020, the European Commission launched a comprehensive action plan (COM(2020) 760 final) with the aim of optimising the EU’s innovation potential with regard to intangible assets, in particular intellectual property rights.
The Commission considers intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks and related rights, to be a key factor for the global competitiveness of the Member States. As the Commission points out, between 2010 and 2019 the number of European Patents increased from 58 000 to 137 000, but this increase is less pronounced than in Asia, for example.
To improve the framework conditions, the Commission has identified five challenges and, in the adopted Action Plan, corresponding priorities have been set, on which specific proposals for concrete actions are presented:
- Improvement of the system for the protection of intellectual property
- Create incentives for the use and application of intellectual property, especially by SMEs
- Facilitate access to and sharing of intangible assets while ensuring a reasonable return on investment
- Ensure better enforcement of intellectual property rights; and
- Improving fairness at the global level
Specifically, in order to improve the protection of intellectual property, in addition to the introduction of the single Unitary patent system, possible financial support for supplementary protection certificates and the revision of design protection legislation, a new approach to the protection of geographical indications and plant variety protection will be developed.
In addition to the above-mentioned reforms, the Commission plans to examine the use of new technologies such as AI and block chain and to consider how and for what protection should be provided in the future as a result of the “digital revolution“.
To promote the attractiveness and use of IPR assets, the Commission also plans to introduce so-called “IP vouchers for SMEs” to finance the registration and strategic advice on IPR.
It also aims to improve data exchange, access to and sharing of protected intangible assets and their effective enforcement.
The implementation of the concrete measures that will hopefully bring about some positive changes in the protection of intellectual property rights can be eagerly awaited. The Commission invites the European Parliament, the Council and the Member States to participate in the development of strategies to implement the objectives set out in the action plan.