Author: Eddie Powell
This article was published in ILN Insider on 7 January 2016.
Here’s a quick “heads up” of what I see as the key reforms of IP laws in the pipeline at the European Union (EU) level that are likely to affect EU regional registrations of IP, as well as the national laws of each and every EU Member State. You will no doubt be reading more about these topics during 2016.
The new EU Unitary Patent (UP) is on the starting blocks: most of the key documents, including secondary rules and regulations for the UP and the associated arrangements for the Unitary Patent Court (UPC), are now agreed. But ratification of the UPC agreement is still awaited from the 13 Member States required, including the UK and Germany (both of whose ratification is mandatory) for it, and so the UP, to come into force. This is expected to occur during 2016 and the hope is that the UP will be up and running by the beginning of 2017. Once that happens, innovators will be able to apply for one patent to cover the whole EU (without the need for converting to individual national registrations).
The EU Commission’s drive towards a Digital Single Market is likely to gather momentum in the next 12 months.
In December, it announced a proposed reform to copyright law which would make it illegal for rights owners to prevent subscribers to a digital content service (such as pay TV or premium sports channels) in one Member State from fully accessing and using the service if they travel in other Member States. The Commission hopes that the new regulation will be passed in 2016 for implementation in 2017.
Proposals to be unveiled during 2016 are likely to include:
Confidential information/trade secrets
Provisional agreement between the EU institutions has been reached on the text of the new Trade Secrets Directive (TSD) which will establish minimum thresholds for protection for trade secrets and confidential information across all Member States. The TSD sets out a standardised definition of what is a trade secret, provides for unauthorised acquisition or use of trade secrets to be unlawful and stipulates standard remedies that must be available in all Member States.
Once the TSD is implemented, which is expected to be during 2016, the Member States will have two years to bring their national laws into compliance with its terms. For many Member States, this will result in significant amendments to existing law, but for others (such as the UK) the TSD does not significantly alter the scope of protection available, but is likely to give rise to litigation as settled law is challenged and adapted to reflect the new rules.
The EU has provisionally agreed amended the rules that apply to the Community Trade Mark, now renamed the “European Union Trade Mark” (EUTM) and also amended the directive that set out standardised rules for national trade mark registrations throughout the EU. The key changes are:
The new rules are expected to be concluded during 2016. The changes to the EUTM will take effect three months after adoption, but Member States will have three years to incorporate the changes into the rules for their national trade mark systems.
Eddie Powell, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)