Michel Reimon’s, Catherine Stihler’s draft opinion and Pavel Svoboda’s draft report on EU action plan on enforcement of IPR
The Committee on Culture and Education calls on the Committee on Legal Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution: the key objective of the action plan should be to ensure that future measures taken to enforce Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are not based solely on data provided by the industry, in particular in the cultural and creative sectors, but on precise, unbiased data documenting IPR infringements; in order to achieve a meaningful enforcement of IPR, full information should include a clear indication of the type of IPR (for example patent, trademark, copyright), the status of its validity and the identity of the owners; IPR enforcement should not prevent open research and knowledge sharing.
Welcomes the Commission’s Action Plan with its emphasis on tackling enforcement on commercial scale infringements by adopting a ‘follow the money’ approach where those who are the greatest offenders will suffer financial loss. Recognises the importance of voluntary Memoranda of Understanding that establish firm principles agreed upon during stakeholder dialogues, as they will help reduce commercial scale IPR infringements in the online environment, and looks forward to a report back on the success of any voluntary measures on an annual basis. Highlights the vital role public authorities play through procurement and purchasing, and commends the Commission’s desire to develop, promote and publish a guide on best practices to avoid public authorities purchasing counterfeit goods.
EU faces a high number of intellectual property rights infringements, and the volume and financial value of these infringements are alarming, as reported by the Commission in its report on the application of the Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Development of e-commerce and online activities has changed the way IPR enforcement should be considered, particularly because it affords new possibilities for infringement. All actors in the supply chain have a role to play in the fight against IPR infringement and should be involved in this process; approach involving all actors should be developed both in the online and in the offline context. Opportunities for infringement should not be created, and business models should be reconsidered by the industry in certain sectors.
Svoboda welcomes the approach of depriving IPR infringers of their revenues by means of agreements between right-holders and their partners; supports the elaboration of memoranda of understanding as soft-law measures to fight against counterfeiting and piracy, and supports the idea of developing such measures further among stakeholders. Welcomes the approach taken by the Commission to develop targeted awareness campaigns; believes that it is essential that the concrete consequences of IPR infringements for society as a whole, and for consumers and citizens individually, should be understood by all; believes that consumers should be better informed of what IPR consist of, and what can be done or not done with protected goods and content; calls on the Commission and the Member States to further develop awareness actions aimed at specific audiences and relevant markets.
At the same time Svoboda believes that consumers should be better able to identify infringing offers so that they can decide not to proceed with a given purchase; deplores the fact that the Commission’s action plan does not include any action designed to improve consumers’ ability to identify infringing goods and contents, and calls on the Commission to reflect further on the development of specific tools, including labelling, based on the experiences gathered by the Commission and the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, especially with regard to the sharing of best practices. Believes that the lack of a competitive supply of non-infringing products and content makes it difficult to deter consumers from buying unlawful goods or using unlawful content; takes the view that sufficient progress has not been made in this area, and reiterates its demand that the Commission and Member States put more pressure on the industry to develop, in all Member States, licit offers that are both diversified and attractive.
Svoboda also stresses the importance of access to justice and of the cost-effectiveness of judicial proceedings, especially for SMEs, and calls for the development of mediation services and other business-to-business alternative dispute resolution schemes in the area of IPR. Takes note of the Commission’s report indicating that the IPR Enforcement Directive is in some respects out of step with the digital age and insufficient for combating online infringements; calls on the Commission to come up with a detailed assessment of the limitations of the current legal framework as regards online activities and, if appropriate, with proposals for adapting the EU legislative framework to the internet environment. Takes note of the finding that divergent interpretations of certain provisions of the directive result in differences in its application in the Member States, and calls on the Commission to take action to remedy the problems identified in the report, including by means of further clarification of the directive.