Where next for the Observatory?

January 2014 Where next for the Observatory?

AIM has contributed to the first edition of the Observatory’s online newsletter. The Observatory on infringements of intellectual property rights is now a fully operational department within OHIM and AIM remains engaged at all levels, from its working groups through to monitoring and assisting with the roll-out of its challenging work programme

Even for observers not involved in the daily battle against intellectual property infringements, the question of whether the Observatory would be useful has now been answered.

Leading the work on practicality are its two detailed reports on the importance of IP to our economy and growth and the perception by Europe’s citizens of what IP actually is, and does. In a time of economic crisis, little could be more convincing of the need to protect our innovators and creators than this independent empirical data. Industries reliant on IP contribute not just 26% of Europe’s (good-quality jobs) and support 20 million more, we account for almost 39% of the EU’s total economic activity (some €4.7 trillion) and the vast majority of our external trade. IP-intensive industries are in the forefront of Europe’s growth prospects.

The perception study shows us where we need to concentrate our awareness efforts. While the above may be obvious to those of us in the industry, the need not just to own IP but to protect it – like the need to lock your front door – still hasn’t made the leap from theory to reality in many citizens’ minds. Our job going forward is to show why IP matters in our daily lives and the reality of its abuse, from loss of jobs and governmental revenues through to proven dangers for consumers’ health and safety and the funding of organised crime. Yes, illegal downloading and counterfeiting DO matter.

Continuing the practical theme, the Enforcement Database is shaping up to be the best in class one-stop-site for law enforcement, providing access not just to the essential information in applications for customs action but also to vital supplementary details to help officers spot suspicious products.

While it’s too early to predict what the Member States and Parliament will agree in the ongoing revision of our trade mark systems, we are heartened that our legislators appreciate that Europe’s laws work well overall. Solid and harmonised trade mark administration is the bedrock on which our brands are built. As the only EU Agency fully funded by industry, OHIM - and the Observatory – play a unique role in bringing together Europe’s creators, or “users” of those systems in the jargon, with national offices, law enforcement and civil society. The success of the Cooperation Fund, with its transparent goals and measurable Key Performance Indicators, is being replicated in the Convergence Programme: by defining together what users and Members States need, and what is feasible to implement, we can only improve both practices and understanding.

So what next? Building awareness, be that within the judiciary or the upcoming technically-savvy, employment-challenged generation, is vital. The frankly terrifying drop in seizures at our borders of IP-infringing goods by 65% last year is also clear proof of our need to continue our support for IPR-expert customs officers. Resources are tight everywhere; the link between the contribution of brands and creativity to the EU’s stability and growth must be stressed.

Above all, it’s time to explain why we need to turn those keys; enforcement, otherwise known as protection, is the only way to ensure that Europe’s job market and competitiveness continue to grow. AIM and its membership stand ready to work with the entire network of the Observatory, and other stakeholders, to this end.

AIM the European Brands Association, December 2013

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