Evaluating impacts on intellectual property rights

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Does the option affect intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, copyright, other know-how rights)?[1]


The protection of intellectual property rights (industrial property, copyright and related rights) aims at reducing counterfeiting, eliminating barriers to the free movement of goods and services, and distortions of competition.

The effectiveness of patent protection consists in the capability of patenting institutions to actually defend inventive activity from free-riding and imitation for a period of time and for a reasonable extension of applications. Effective patent protection is important to grant appropriability of research efforts, hence increasing incentives to invest in R&D. Effectiveness of patents depends on industrial characteristics (it is less effective in software design than in pharmaceuticals), on the breadth and precision of patent coverage, on the duration of patents. Public policies can define important aspects of patenting procedures, such as the duration, coverage and enforcement of patents.[1]

However, differences between national laws in the intellectual property field (which, for the purposes of this document, embraces industrial property, copyright and related rights) may constitute protectionist barriers to the free movement of goods and services and distort competition, thereby undermining the single market. For example, a Member State with extremely strict counterfeiting laws could easily take action for counterfeiting against products coming from a Member State whose laws were less stringent.

The protection of intellectual property is governed by many international conventions. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and, more recently, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are responsible for implementing numerous international conventions and treaties. The first convention, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, dates back to 1883, and since then several conventions and treaties have been signed which cover various aspects of the protection of intellectual property, such as the protection of literary and artistic works (the Berne Convention), and the protection of performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organisations (the Rome Convention). The conclusion of the Agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (the TRIPS Agreement) by the members of the WTO in 1996 upon the conclusion of the Uruguay Round emphasises the importance of the protection of intellectual property in the field of trade. The Agreement covers several aspects of trade, particularly the granting of patents for, amongst other things, pharmaceutical products. The WTO therefore plays an important role in the protection of intellectual property and has established close relations with the WIPO. The corresponding commitments made by some or all of the Member States are leading to some standardisation of national laws in specific fields.[1]

This does not, however, provide an adequate basis for completing the single market. The Commission has therefore decided to strive for harmonisation of national laws in different areas and for stronger effective protection of intellectual property throughout the world. European Community Actions in this policy area span the following fields: Trademarks, Designs, Patent system and Community patent, Utility models, Copyright and related rights, Counterfeiting and piracy.[1]


Further information

EC related information:

European Patent Office

Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM)

Other information:

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

TRIPS (trade-related aspects of IP rights) on the WTO web site[1]


The following Eurostat Structural Indicators (Innovation and Research) are relevant to address the key question:

  • Patents EPO
  • Patents USPTO

There are no Eurostat Sustainable Development Indicators directly related to this key question.

The OECD database also contains relevant statistics under the heading:

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 JRC: IA TOOLS. Supporting inpact assessment in the European Commission.[1]

This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents. The text is adapted from:

Activities of the European Union: Intellectual Property