The European Commission this week published its new action plan on intellectual property, which aims to help companies make the most of their own inventions.
Intellectual property (IP) is one of a company’s intangible assets, the products of the minds of owners and employees which go on to become the company’s other assets, such as products and services.
The action plan sets out to improve the protection of IP for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It involves a number of steps: to boost the uptake of IP by SMEs; to facilitate the sharing of IP to increase the technological uptake in the industry; to fight counterfeiting and improve the enforcement of IP rights; and to promote a global level playing field.
“Intangible assets such as brands, designs, patents and data are increasingly important in today’s knowledge economy,” the Commission said in a statement. “IP-intensive industries account for 45% of all GDP and 93% of all EU exports, while the added value of IP is growing across most European industrial ecosystems.”
Across the world, demand for protection of IP is increasing, as those intangible assets become increasingly more important in a technological world.
“The Action Plan builds on the strengths of the European IP framework to ensure that it supports our economic recovery and resilience in key economic areas,” the Commission said.
The plan has five main headings:
Improving the protection offered to IP, for example with a strengthened system of protection for geographical indications for agricultural products (such as champagne or Cheddar cheese) as well as looking into the possibility of a similar system for other products, like Solingen knives or Carrara marble;
Encouraging SMEs to make better use of the IP protections already in place – something only 9% of small businesses currently do;
Making it possible to share critical IP in times of crisis, such as the current pandemic of Covid-19;
Improving the enforcement of IP rights and fighting counterfeiting, with fake branded goods at present representing a value of 6.8% of GDP in the whole EU; and
Lobbying for a global level playing field for EU companies outside of Europe, where 93% of exported goods come from industries where IP rights are of huge importance.
“Europe is home to some of the world’s leading innovations, but companies are still not fully able to protect their inventions and capitalise on their intellectual property,” said Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market.
“Today we are proposing to overhaul our intellectual property system to strengthen Europe’s ability to develop next-generation technologies, to reflect advances in data and artificial intelligence, to allow companies to quickly pool their knowledge in times of crisis, and to support Europe’s path towards economic recovery and the green transition.”