Common rules on intellectual property are based on Article 118 TFEU, which provides that in the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market, the Parliament and the Council, can establish measures for the creation of European intellectual property rights in order to provide uniform protection of such rights throughout the Union, and for the setting up of centralised, Union-wide authorisation, coordination and supervision arrangements.
On this legal basis, the EU has adopted rules on common trademark protection, designs and models, copyright, patents and measures combating counterfeiting and piracy. The aim of the EU is to tackle the barriers in trade arising from differing intellectual property laws, and to ensure the protection of innovation, creativity, employment and competitiveness.
EU Digital Single Market
The current Commission work programme emphasises the importance of developing e-commerce and the Commission’s aim is to create a Digital Single Market. This includes revision of the current intellectual property regime in light of the technological developments. Whilst the general aim of the Digital Single Market is to remove barriers for trading cross-border in an electronic environment, the intellectual property law angle aims to ensure that the digital services and creativity can prosper, and that the rightholders are appropriately remunerated for their creations.
Future developments of IP law
Concentrating on the Digital Single Market project, the Commission has set out in 2015 and 2016 to tackle in particular different forms of geo-blocking by businesses. On 9 December 2015 the Commission tabled the portability regulation (COM (2015)0627), which will aim to ensure that those who are subscribing to digital content online, such as media streaming services, can gain access to those services when abroad. Furthermore, on 25 May 2016 the Commission adopted a wide ranging e-commerce package which aims to ensure that consumers can access goods and services, such as data clouds, on the internet. This does not extend yet to copyrighted materials. In addition, on the same day, the Commission tabled an update of the audio-visual services directive which aims to set new rules for video sharing platforms, a stronger role for audiovisual regulators and to regulate further issues such as hate speech and how much European content the carriers must hold on their sites. The Commission is aiming to bring out the further IP law related reform in Autumn 2016, with revised rules on copyright.
In addition to the above, the Commission is working on renewing the IPR enforcement regime. The Commission held a consultation on the current framework and on the basis of the responses, the Commission will be looking into revising the rules to strengthen the position of the SMEs. To date the Commission has published two roadmaps on this and new initiatives are expected in 2017 / 2018.
Law Societies’ interests and Brussels Office Activities
The Law Societies are following the developments on the Digital Single Market closely. The LSEW and the LSS both submitted responses to the Commission’s geoblocking consultation in December 2015. The Brussels Office has supported this work by providing timely updates and regular informative features in the Brussels Agenda.
Furthermore, the Brussels Office has worked together with the Law Societies experts at the CCBE following the development of the Unitary Patent Court.