By Conor Brennan
The knowledge based industry, reliant on intellectual property rights (IPR), is among the fastest growing sectors in the EU – growing four times faster than the rest of the economy over the last decade. Nearly seven million people are employed by small and medium sized businesses in the creative industry alone. Intellectual property remains the cornerstone of continued innovation, research and creativity.
Yet there continues to be a fragmented EU policy on IPR which costs jobs and businesses revenue. It is predicted that at least €8bn and over 100,000 jobs are lost annually due to piracy in the film, music, TV and software industries in the EU. Cases of counterfeit goods suspected of infringing IPR rose from 26,704 in 2005 to 43,572 in 2009 – an increase of more than 60 per cent over five years.
There is no doubt IP and counterfeiting theft is a growing transnational problem. However this should be seen as a great opportunity for the EU to implement a single policy which will harness the huge benefits of a thriving knowledge based sector.
This summer saw the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) rejected in the European Parliament by a comprehensive majority. ACTA was designed to tackle online piracy and counterfeiting crime but was viewed by many as an infringement of personal internet freedoms. The principal of IPR of businesses and individuals in the EU was not the deciding factor which led to the failure of ACTA but instead the possible infringement of rights for internet users. The fundamentals of protecting IPR should be viewed as a positive for member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission to build on and gain consensus around.
In October 2012, a leaked copy of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada drew speculation over similarities between it and the buried ACTA proposals. Lessons should be learnt from ACTA and the EU should engage with businesses and organisations and revisit the central issue of protection against IP and counterfeit theft.
The benefits to the UK and the EU of a common policy against IP and counterfeiting theft and simplified regulations are enormous. At the moment if a company wants to maintain a patent protection over the 27 member states for 20 years it would cost the company €200,000. New proposals which would see an 80% decrease in costs should be supported – many of the barriers which would be overcome are regulations on language translation. Advancements in attaching Geographical Indicators (GIs) to a product are continuing and a clear protect policy of geographically specialised products is at the early stages of implementation.
These advancements are welcome progress but there is still much to do in the protection of IPR. In the UK alone the creative industries deliver around 1.5m jobs and contribute over £36 billion to gross value added (GVA) and companies invest £16 billion annually in the UK economy by building brands. The UK can reassure innovators their ideas are protected by urging the EU to revisit the complications of IP and counterfeiting protection. The knowledge-based industry continues to grow rapidly and is a huge contributor to the economy. This is why all participants should seek consensus on the protection IPR.