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Report by Pavel Svoboda on EU Action plan to enforce IPR

Intellectual property rights are one of the driving forces of innovation and creativity and a key contributor to competitiveness, employment and cultural diversity. Product authenticity should not always be conflated with product safety and product quality issues, and the enforcement of intellectual property rights plays a significant role in ensuring consumers’ health and safety.

Infringements of IPR cause both non-material and economic damage to European undertakings and bring about heavy economic and fiscal losses to states. Adequate protection of intellectual property rights is a prerequisite for the development of the digital economy and of the digital single market. The rapidly increasing development of e-commerce and online activities has changed the way IPR enforcement should be considered in the digital environment, particularly because it affords new possibilities for infringement, owing not least to new social behavioural patterns among users.

There is a lack of adequate knowledge of the social and cultural importance of IPR and of the actions considered as infringements of them, and a lack of awareness, especially among young Europeans, of the potential consequences of IPR infringements on the EU economy and society, and on the general safety of citizens.

The key objective of the action plan should be to ensure the effective, evidence-based enforcement of IPR, which plays a key role in stimulating innovation, creativity, competitiveness, growth and cultural diversity. Measures taken to enforce IPR should be based on precise, reliable data.

At times of financial crisis, when major cuts are being made in financial support for the cultural sector, IPR are often among individual creators’ main sources of income. Therefore, ensuring fair remuneration for creators should be a crucial element of the EU action plan. In the interests of innovation, creativity and competitiveness, it is crucial that IPR protection measures are transparent and that full information is available to the public and to all other actors concerned.

All actors in the supply chain have a role to play in the fight against IPR infringement and should be involved in this process. An approach involving all actors should be developed both in the online and in the offline context. Fundamental rights need to be balanced for this to be successful, as measures that impact fundamental rights cannot be undertaken voluntarily by commercial operators, but need a legal basis and judicial oversight.

Counterfeit and IPR-infringing physical goods are increasingly being traded and sold via online marketplaces, where Member State authorities have limited abilities to control sales. Applying due diligence throughout the supply chain and enhanced market surveillance and information sharing between customs authorities would improve the business environment and contribute to preventing infringing goods and services from entering the market.

In the cultural and creative sector, payment service providers should be involved in the dialogue with a view to reducing the profits generated by IPR infringements in the online sphere.

Consumers should be better able to identify infringing offers so that they can decide not to proceed with a given purchase. Commission’s action plan does not include any action designed to improve consumers’ ability to identify infringing goods and contents. The system for the notification and removal, one URL at a time, of content that infringes IPR has practical limitations in view of the speed with which the content in question can be made available again.

It will be possible to achieve greater transparency and better information in an effective manner only with the cooperation of the main internet stakeholders who convey content protected by IPR. It is therefore desirable (de) to involve them in such efforts to achieve transparency and the circulation of information.