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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Intellectual property

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
  • 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


What the Commission does

The Commission aims to empower businesses to access and use intellectual property rights more effectively. It

Other Commission services dealing with 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

  1. Stop of all cooperation actions with Rospatent, the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property, and the Eurasian Patent Organisation (EAPO)
  2. Extension of procedural deadlines to the benefit of Ukrainian applicants and right holders
  3. 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.