Europe addresses intellectual property problems in China and 12 other countries

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The European Commission’s latest report on The Protection and Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Third Countries released this month highlights IPR-related problems in 13 different countries that cause “irreparable harm” to European companies. China was again named as the “Priority 1” country “because of the scale and persistence of problems in the area of IPR protection and enforcement.”

This report, the latest in a series published by the Commission every two years since 2006, emphasises that “effective intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement are crucial for economic growth and for the EU’s ability to stimulate innovation and stay competitive globally”.  Industries deemed “IPR-intensive” generate about 39% of all direct and indirect jobs in the EU, 82% of EU exports, and 45% of Europe’s GDP. 

The report reviews countries’ IPR protections and infringement and enforcement problems, and finds China’s IPR system and practices most problematic due to widespread infringement and insufficient legal and enforcement rules.  In the words of the report:

China is at the origin of a dominant share of counterfeit and pirated goods arriving in the EU, in terms of both value and volume. More than 80% of the seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods by EU customs authorities originate from China and Hong Kong. Forced technology transfer is an increasingly important trade irritant.

Pro-domestic patent practices, bad-faith trademark registrations, overly short design protections, and out-of-date copyright rules are also highlighted in the Commission’s list of problems needing to be fixed in China. 

Twelve other countries’ IPR rules and practices are also highlighted as needing improvements.  “Priority 2” countries are India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, which the report says have “serious systemic problems” and that the countries have made “no progress or only limited progress in addressing these concerns”.

“Priority 3” countries, which have “some serious problems in the area of IP, causing considerable harm to EU businesses,” include Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

The Commission uses these reports as a basis for ongoing negotiations and other interaction with the highlighted countries.  These include trade negotiations, IP dialogues and working groups, technical assistance programs, and multinational programs. 

The EU’s Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan hopes that this report will encourage continued improvement in IPR protections for European companies.  “Infringements of intellectual property, including forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, counterfeiting and piracy threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in the EU every year.  The information gathered in the report will enable us to become even more efficient in protecting EU firms and workers against intellectual property infringements like counterfeiting or copyright piracy.”

A copy of the full report can be reviewed here.  For further information, see the Commission’s website here.