EU Commission Flexes Enforcement Muscles With New IPR Strategy

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The European Commission today published a strategy intended to boost the economy by analysing and applying polish to European Union rules on intellectual property rights, including increased attention to enforcement with a crackdown on small shipments from internet purchases.

The strategy lays out plans in the areas of patents, trademarks, geographical indications (products named after places), copyright, digital libraries, and border enforcement, according to a summary available here.

The strategy statement gives a nod to the need for access to knowledge for innovators, but appears to contain mainly plans to boost IP rights.

On patents, the Commission will continue to seek a unitary EU patent. On trademarks, it will present proposals in 2011 to streamline processing to keep up with demand.

On GIs, it will conduct “an in-depth analysis of the existing legal framework in the Member States as well as the potential economic impact of protection for non-agricultural GIs in 2011 and 2012,” that could lead to legislative proposals.

On copyright, the Commission in the second half of 2011 will issue a “proposal to create a legal framework for the efficient multi-territorial collective management of copyright, in particular in the music sector.” It also will establish “common rules on the transparent governance and revenue distribution.” And in the last six months of 2011, it will launch a consultation “on the various issues related to the online distribution of audiovisual works.”

It also will address issues of orphan works – those under copyright but for whom the rights holder cannot be found – through a new legislative proposal on digital libraries, press release here.

On enforcement, the Commission will strengthen existing initiatives such as the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy – on which it sent legislation to Parliament today – and committed to propose changes to the EU Enforcement Directive in spring 2012 to “to meet the specific challenges of the digital environment.”

And in a notable provision, the Commission proposed a new customs regulation increasing border authorities legal might. The proposal “also aims to tackle the trade in small consignments of counterfeit goods sent by post as the overwhelming majority of these goods results from internet sales,” the Commission said.

Paris-based civil liberties group La Quadrature du Net criticised the new strategy in an analysis entitled, “EU Commission Sticks to Flawed Copyright Repression.

“Unsurprisingly, leaks show that the Commission will call for preventing copyright infringements on the Internet “at the source”, by forcing Internet companies such as hosters and access providers to obey the entertainment industries,” the group said. “In practice, turning these actors into a copyright police comes down to establishing a censorship regime, paving the way for dangerous breaches of fundamental rights.”

William New may be reached at

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