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Blueprint for intellectual property rights - 24/05/2011

Some fake goods, including a bag, a shoe, a car air filter, and a football © EU

Coordinated EU approach would better protect intellectual property rights and fight piracy and counterfeiting.

Piracy and counterfeiting pose a threat to the EU's economy by undercutting the price of authentic products and making it harder for honest producers to stay in business. Consumers are also at risk as fake products often flout health and safety standards.

That threat has been increasing, with the Internet making it easier to illegally download music, films, software and other easily digitised work. Meanwhile, counterfeiters have expanded their trade from fake luxury goods to more common items such as foodstuffs, cosmetics, hygiene products, medicines and spare parts for cars.

To counter the problem, the Commission proposes to modernise the EU's intellectual property right laws, which protect literary, musical and artistic works (copyright), discoveries and inventions (patents), and words, phrases, symbols and designs (trademarks).

Genuine and safe

People would benefit from easier access to protected works and the assurance that products and services they buy are genuine and safe.

Intellectual property rights are vital for Europe's 25 million small and mid-size businesses - protecting their investment in new products and services, helping them secure access to financing and increasing fair competition.

Businesses and inventors would benefit from a simpler patent system, which is currently too complex and costly.

A switch away from counterfeit and pirated goods to legitimate trading would also boost tax revenues for EU governments.

The proposed changes include :

  • creating a unitary patent-protection system so inventors would need to register only one patent covering most EU countries - reducing costs and red tape
  • protecting brands more effectively through a modernised trademark system that is simpler, faster, more effective, efficient and consistent
  • easing access to copyright-protected works, particularly online and including Europe's cultural heritage

The approach also sets out a more effective enforcement strategy within the EU, at its borders and in partnership with non-EU countries.

Next steps

The Commission will make specific proposals before 2014.

EU countries seized around 118 million fake articles in 2009, of which 18% posed a danger to public health.

More on intellectual property rights

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