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Intellectual Property in the EU – A Review of 2013

1. Unified Patent System

In February 2013, 24 EU Member States, including Ireland, signed an international agreement relating to a pan-European patent system, including the creation of a Unitary Patent and a Unified Patent Court  (“UPC“). The UPC will have exclusive competence to deal with all disputes relating to infringement and revocation of European Patents and the new Unitary Patents.

Member States can elect to either host a local division of the UPC, or join a regional division. The Irish Government has not elected to host a local division. A decision is awaited on whether Ireland elects for a local division or participates in a regional division, such as London.

2. Copyright Reform for Digital Ireland

The long-awaited report of the Copyright Review Committee (the “Committee“) was published in October 2013. The Committee was set up in 2011 to develop proposals for legislative reform of copyright laws, so as to remove any perceived barriers for innovation in the digital environment.

Some of the key recommendations are:

  • the establishment of an independent, self-funded and broadly representative Copyright Council of Ireland, whose functions would include recommending developments in copyright policies and procedures, publishing codes and best practices and supporting legal and technical means to protect copyright;
  • the introduction of specialist IP tracks in the District and Circuit Courts; and
  • the introduction of the full range of copyright exceptions permitted by EU law and limited exceptions of innovation and fair use.

The report includes a draft of the Copyright and Related Rights (Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2013, designed to give the Government a steer on implementing the recommendations. It will be interesting to see how many of the recommendations will be carried into the eventual amending legislation. If we consider the public forum held on 9 December 2013 as a gauge of interest groups’ sentiments, we can expect fierce lobbying before Irish copyright law is updated.

Ireland is not alone in proposing copyright reform. As part of its plan to finalise its review of copyright law in the EU by spring 2014, the European Commission launched a public consultation on 5 December 2013 which seeks stakeholders’ views on areas such as territoriality in the Single Market, harmonisation, limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age, fragmentation of the EU copyright market, and how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of enforcement while underpinning its legitimacy in the wider context of copyright reform.

3. Proposed New Protections for Confidential Business Information

November 2013 saw the European Commission propose new rules for the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure. The draft directive introduces a common definition of trade secrets and a means through which those affected by trade secret theft or misuse can obtain redress. This is positive news for small and emerging businesses that rely on trade secrecy due to the costs of seeking, managing and enforcing a large portfolio of Intellectual Property Rights. The Commission’s proposals will now be passed to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for adoption under the ordinary legislative procedure.

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