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The European Commission has just published the IP Action Plan to help companies, in particular SMEs, to make the most in valorising their intangible assets. These assets are indeed increasingly important as IP-intensive industries account for 45% of all GDP and 93% of all EU exports, while the added value of IP is growing across most EU industrial ecosystems.

The Action Plan builds on the strengths of the EU IP framework to support EU economic recovery and resilience in the most relevant economic areas. In particular, it consists in the following key steps and respective measures:

- Improve the protection of IP
The document proposes to enhance some of the existing IP tools in order to make them fit for the digital age, including improving the supplementary protection certificates for patented medicinal and plant protection products and modernising EU design protection. Also, it aims at enhancing the protection of agricultural geographical indications and considers the feasibility of a GI protection system for non-agricultural products at EU level. The European Commission launches an industry dialogue to address the impact of new technologies (such as AI and block chain) on the IP system. The goal is to let companies have access to fast, effective and affordable protection tools as well as decrease the current fragmentation and complexity. The document invites Member States for a quick rollout of the unitary patent system to create a one-stop-shop for patent protection and enforcement across the EU.

- Enhance the uptake of IP by SMEs
EU innovators and creators, especially SMEs, are often not aware of the advantages of integrating IP in their business strategy. In this regard, European Commission proposes measures to enhance information and advice. It will support SMEs, affected by the COVID pandemic, to better manage their IP portfolios via a new financial assistance scheme with € 20 million provided from EUIPO funds for the first year. In addition, the European Commission will also make IP advice and help available to all participants of EU funded research and innovation programmes as well as work with all stakeholders to better valorise IPR across the R&I community. Also, it acts to make it easier to use IP as a lever for access to finance.

- Facilitate the sharing of IP to increase the technological uptake in the industry
The document aims to protect intangibles but also aims to enhance the access to critical intangibles. Recognising the relevant role the IP system can play in tackling health emergencies, the European Commission proposes ways to facilitate the sharing of critical IP in times of crisis, while at the same time ensuring return on investment. The Commission will also work on an enhanced copyright infrastructure, to better mobilise IP-protected data as well as boost transparency and predictability in the licensing of standard-essential patents which are key element for the digital transformation of EU industry.

- Fight counterfeiting and improve the enforcement of IPRs
As the import of counterfeited and pirated goods amounts to 6.8% of EU GDP, the European Commission will enhance an enforcement of IPRs. As a complement to the upcoming Digital Services Act package, it will establish an EU anti-counterfeiting toolbox to promote and facilitate effective cooperation between IPR holders, intermediaries (such as online market places) and law enforcement authorities, mainstream best practice as well as the use of adequate tools and new technologies.

- Promote a global level playing field
Our businesses still face great challenges when operating in third countries. For this reason, the European Commission aims to strengthen the EU position as a global standard-setter in IP. It will also enhance the EU response to unfair practices committed by third country players (e.g. industrial espionage, attempts to misappropriate IP in the context of R&D cooperation).

Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “Europe is home to some of the world's leading innovations, but companies are still not fully able to protect their inventions and capitalise on their intellectual property. Today, we are proposing to overhaul our intellectual property system to strengthen Europe's ability to develop next generation technologies, reflect advances in data and AI; allow companies to quickly pool their knowledge in times of crisis, and support Europe's path towards economic recovery and the green transition.”

To find out more, please click here.
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