Most European-based institutions – not least the European Commission – consider IPRs to be an important aspect (among other issues) in the EU’s ability to compete in the global economy, as EU growth and jobs are hampered when ideas, brands and products are counterfeited and pirated.
Indeed IPRs, including patents, trademarks, design rights and copyrights, can serve as incentives for innovation and can help identify trusted producers. In this context, there is no doubt that the latest Strategy for European Intellectual Property Rights reflects the belief in the IP system as a power-hub for innovation in Europe.
Yet the success of this strategy does not only depend on the EU’s ability to effectively implement this strategy, not least with regard to the registration, protection and enforcement of IPRs in Europe.
In order for this strategy to be truly effective the EU should also consider how if can become more innovative in the first place!
In Putting knowledge into practice: A broad-based innovation strategy for the EU (2006), the European Commission acknowledged the dependence of Europe’s future on innovation. In doing so, it identified how tackling climate change, depleting national resources, sharp demographic changes and emerging security needs were all reliant on Europe’s ability to harness innovation.
Yet despite the ambitious goals that were set in the Lisbon Agenda and the Europe 2020 agenda, the EU is still lagging behind its main trading partners. Indeed several studies have shown that the Union’s competitive innovative edge is potentially waning. Comparative studies are showing that some emerging countries, particularly China, are beginning to close the innovation gap in respect to investment (though not in regards to patents), whilst it seems that no ground is being made by Europe on leading countries, such as the United States and Japan (in both investment and patents). There are also indications from European industry that the financial crisis could have a negative effect on investment on innovation which, considering the arguments laid out earlier, could undermine aspirations for an innovation-led recovery from the financial crisis.
To this extent, a far greater challenge than the implementation of an EU IP strategy is to create the potential and the basis to generate the knowledge assets that can be protected by IPRs in the first place. Without a stronger knowledge-based platform in Europe it is not really clear how significantly the new IP strategy would benefit the current European economy.
In other words, the new IP Strategy is a necessary but insufficient step to step up the level of the innovation in Europe, yet nevertheless it is a step in the right direction.
Meir Pugatch, Director of Research, Stockholm Network