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Intellectual property and technology transfer
The protection of intellectual assets is essential to the competitiveness of most organisations, private or public, and to their attractiveness for investors.
Hence, there is a need to properly balance intellectual property systems, to ensure that they offer suitable incentives to invest in research and innovation, while at the same time ensuring that the diffusion and further development of research results are not stifled.
However, in the European research policy perspective, the proper management of knowledge (such as R&D results) and intellectual property also raises further issues.
On the one hand, there is scope to make European intellectual property systems more responsive to the rapid evolution of both research processes and emerging technological areas. This calls for a number of R&D-related IPR questions to be tackled (e.g. the research exemption). In addition, special emphasis needs to be placed on specific issues relevant for R&D collaborations and technology transfer between public research organisations and industry, as “university-industry relations” are an increasingly important way of enhancing the impact of scientific achievements on European competitiveness.
On the other hand, actions are needed to promote the optimal use of intellectual property rights systems in Europe, by suitable awareness and training actions, with a special emphasis on academic institutions and small businesses.
Accordingly, this website addresses the following topics:
There are currently several patenting systems in Europe: national patent systems and the European patent system.
The European patent system is not based on an EU legal instrument. Nevertheless, this very successful system, managed by the European Patent Office, makes it possible to file a single patent application, which will be examined centrally and hopefully lead to the grant of a European patent. After its grant, however, this patent is equivalent to a bundle of nationally-enforceable patents, which are subject to national legislation and national courts. For the time being (Jan. 2006), European patents can designate up to 32 countries (the contracting States) of the European Patent Organisation, which controls the European Patent Office), and be extended in up to 5 additional ones.
Despite the success of the European patent, the adoption of the Community patent – for which the Commission has adopted a Regulation proposal in 2000 -- could go a long way to resolve drawbacks such as a high cost (partly linked to translation requirements defined by contracting States) and legal certainty issues (linked to the absence of a central court system).
Meanwhile, it is desirable to improve the existing patenting systems. In particular, a streamlining of the post-grant translation requirements for European patents (through the London Agreement) would reduce their cost, and the setting up of a central court (through the European Patent Litigation Agreement) would address issues related to legal certainty, even if these agreements are ratified by some EPO contracting States only.
The strategy of the European Commission regarding these issues is set forth in its recent Communication "Enhancing the patent system in Europe" (COM(2007)165) [ - 246Kb].
More specialised IPR issues have been addressed through different studies, workshops and expert groups, whose findings are summarised in the following reports:
In Europe, protection of intellectual property is not only hampered by the fragmentation and associated costs of the available IPR systems, but also by a lack of awareness.
The Commission will therefore reinforce the already existing support and information services (such as the IPR Helpdesk).
In addition to the existing national activities in this area, the European Patent Office recently launched a “European Patent Academy”
Together with DG Research, the EPO also produced a brochure [ - 529Kb] explaining (without any legal jargon) why researchers should care about patents.
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