Intellectual property rights play an important role in promoting innovation and protecting investment, in particular in the digital and green economy. That is why the European Commission works to harmonise and enhance laws relating to intellectual property rights in the EU, and to ensure that a level playing field is available at global level.
A reliable intellectual property (IP) framework is the best way to harness creativity and enable innovative enterprises to grow. Without the protection of ideas, businesses and individuals would not reap the full benefits of their inventions or creations, and would focus less on research and development.
IP is also a key lever to support EU resilience and economic recovery in times of crisis. But at the same time, access to IP should be facilitated under fair conditions. The Commission has designed a legal framework and intellectual property system that offers incentives for EU companies to invest in the provision of goods and services with high standards of quality, innovation, design and creativity.
An intellectual property action plan for the EU
To assume leadership in key industrial areas, improve resilience in times of COVID-19 while making the transitions to a greener and more digital economy, the EU needs to effectively protect and manage intellectual property. In November 2020, the Commission adopted the Communication ‘Making the most of the EU’s innovative potential – An intellectual property action plan to support the EU’s recovery and resilience’.
The action plan presents proposals for specific measures in five key areas
- Improve the way IP rights are protected by
- supporting a rapid roll out of the unitary patent system
- optimising supplementary protection certificates
- upgrading the design protection system
- strengthening protection for geographical indications (GIs)
- improving the system for protection of plant varieties
- promoting the use of new technologies (such as blockchain and artificial intelligence)
- Boost the uptake and use of IP especially by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Facilitate licensing and sharing of IP by
- ensuring the availability of critical IP in times of crisis
- supporting the development of high-quality ‘copyright infrastructure’
- improving transparency and predictability in Standard Essential Patent licensing
- promoting data access and sharing by clarifying the Trade Secrets Directive and revising the Database Directive
- Ensure better enforcement and fight IP infringements by
- clarifying responsibilities of online platforms in the Digital Services Act
- launching an EU Toolbox against counterfeiting
- strengthening the role of the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) and other authorities in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy
- Promote fair play at a global level by
- developing global IP standards
- curbing unfair practices
- speaking with a united voice on IP
This action plan builds on and enhances the ‘IP package’ of 2017, that included the Communication ‘A balanced IP enforcement system responding to today's societal challenges’ (link). See the press release on the 2017 IP package for more information.
Intellectual property action plan related documents
- Communication, ‘Making the most of the EU’s innovative potential – An intellectual property action plan to support the EU’s recovery and resilience’
- Communication, 'Evaluation of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights'
- Staff Working Document: Evaluation of EU Regulations 469/2009 and 1610/96 on Supplementary Protection Certificates
- Inception Impact Assessment on the review of the Design Directive and Community Design Regulation
- Inception Impact Assessment on geographical indication protection at EU level for non-agricultural products
- Study report: Landscape study of potentially essential patents disclosed to ETSI
- Pilot study for essentiality assessment of Standard Essential Patents
- Study report on trends and developments in artificial intelligence: Challenges to the IPR framework
- Study report on the feasibility and analysis of the 'impact licensing initiative' for technology access during a health crisis
- FAQ on the IP action plan
- Factsheet on the IP action plan
What the Commission does
The Commission aims to empower businesses to access and use intellectual property rights more effectively. It
- supports EU companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to better manage and take advantage of IPR in the EU and beyond
- encourages trading partners to respect IPR, as this also contributes to their economic development
- monitors the effects of patent and trade mark-related legislation across the EU
- is working to introduce cost-saving, efficient unitary patent protection across Europe and is looking at measures to enhance patent exploitation
- examines ways to improve the use of standards by facilitating the licensing process for related intellectual property rights
- has harmonised industrial design protection laws and has proposed to harmonise trade secret protection laws
- is investigating the opportunity to establish geographical indication protection for non-agricultural products
- works to improve the enforcement of intellectual property rights
- campaigns against counterfeiting and piracy
Other Commission services dealing with intellectual property rights
- The Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology is working towards an EU copyright framework for the digital single market
- The Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union contributes to the fight against counterfeiting, piracy and other IPR violations
- The Directorate-General for Trade works to improve the protection of intellectual property rights in non-EU countries
- See specific sectoral guidance notices for stakeholders
- Notice to stakeholders - Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules in the field of exhaustion of intellectual property rights
Following the military aggression of Russia against the Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the European Union Intellectual Property office (‘EUIPO’) and the Commission agreed on 9 March 2022 on the following measures
- Stop of all cooperation actions with Rospatent, the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property, and the Eurasian Patent Organisation (EAPO)
- Extension of procedural deadlines to the benefit of Ukrainian applicants and right holders
- Ensuring that all data regarding parties’ addresses in IP registries reflect Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders, correcting erroneous indications where necessary
In addition, as of 26 April 2022 the Commission published Q&As on intellectual property (IP) related restrictive measures. An updated Q&A was published on 21 March 2023. The Q&As intend, in particular, to give guidance to national intellectual property offices on the interpretation and application of Council Regulation (EU) 269/2014 concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.
Whether and how to process IP applications and related procedures from natural persons or natural or legal persons, entities or bodies associated with those listed in Annex I to this Regulation receives particular attention.