President. − The next item is the report (A7-0003/2012) by Antonio Masip Hidalgo, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights, including the assembling of public and private sector representatives as a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy (COM(2011)0288 – C7-0136/2011 – 2011/0135(COD)).
Antonio Masip Hidalgo, rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, intellectual property infringements seem like a game, but they are destroying the game. They make it impossible to compete freely and fairly, and they allow the players who cheat most to win, that is, the players who do not respect the rules, do not pay their taxes, and who do not protect the rights of either their workers or their customers.
In this report, we got beyond the term ‘piracy’ once and for all. We feel that the term ‘piracy’ is mistaken, because we do not really see that it has any relation with boarding ships at sea, or with the mythical legends of pirates. The infringers themselves have even sometimes waved this term as a flag to pass themselves off as freedom fighters. However, their battle is in vain because they end up serving the interests of large multinationals that want access to content without having to pay for it. Let us call infringements what they really are: infringements. Let us call a spade a spade.
The Observatory in Alicante, where the Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office is already operating successfully, will make the true figures, which are not so evident to everybody, plain to see. The Observatory will make proposals and, above all, provide information on the situation in the sector and compliance with regulations. The text also includes an additional data protection guarantee.
As the Observatory will act as a meeting point between the public and private sectors, proper representation of all the actors involved will be crucial. That is why I have insisted on including the creative industries, primarily to take account of the employment aspect, as well as an annual evaluation in the management report to assess whether the players involved are represented in a well-balanced way.
The Observatory will undoubtedly play a very important role in the essential monitoring work to ensure respect for intellectual property rights.
Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. – (FR) Mr President, firstly I should like to personally and warmly thank Mr Masip Hidalgo for the remarkable work he has done on this regulation and for the role he played personally in the agreement reached with the Council a few days ago on 19 December.
I should also like to praise the efforts of other Members of the Committee on Legal Affairs, particularly the shadow rapporteurs and the rapporteurs for the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Ms Verheyen and Mr Bielan. All of these efforts, and others which I cannot mention, have allowed us to reach a fair and positive compromise for which I would like to voice my agreement, Mr Hidalgo.
I should also like to express my gratitude to the Polish Presidency for supporting this matter until it was approved.
Honourable Members, as the rapporteur, Mr Hidalgo, said, the protection of intellectual property is very important to me. It is an important issue for our economy. It is a major challenge, which we must overcome together for the sake of competitiveness. It is only natural that intellectual property and the defence of intellectual property should be an issue now rather than during the last century. This is, of course, the age of the Internet. It is also the age of Europe.
That is why I launched a broad action plan on 24 May to modernise the rules currently governing the protection of intellectual property in Europe. The creation of this European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights — that is what it shall be called, Mr Hidalgo, as Parliament wanted, ‘the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights’, and I approve of this name — is a key initiative in this direction. It is, moreover, the first legislative initiative of this action plan. The Observatory will be one of the cornerstones of our common fight against these infringements.
The creation of this Observatory represents two important advances: firstly, it will be a forum for technical experts from the public and private sectors to exchange information and experiences and, secondly, it will improve our ability to obtain reliable data on the real impact of these infringements on the economy and jobs in Europe. It is important that we fully understand what we are dealing with in order to react appropriately.
I want to thank Parliament for its support for our proposal in the negotiations with the Council, particularly in terms of ensuring that the Member States provide the Observatory with information and data. Thanks to the agreement which has been concluded, the Observatory will now become fully operational within the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market as soon as possible.
However, honourable Members, this will not mark the end of all our efforts and our cooperation. My services will stay fully involved in all of the Observatory’s activities, in a spirit of cooperation with the Office.
Furthermore, the Commission will be one of the main beneficiaries of the services provided by the Observatory thanks to the increased credibility and objectivity of the data it will collect. The regulation will also give the Commission the opportunity to ask the Office to publish recommendations in the areas covered by the Observatory.
I hope, honourable Members, that Parliament will stay very closely involved in the work of the Observatory, as we proposed, as you requested and as I recalled just last Friday afternoon, Mr Hidalgo, when I found myself spending the day in Alicante to meet the 1 200 people who work at the Office of Trade Marks and Designs. They do remarkable and extremely modern work and it is in Alicante, thanks to you and thanks to this agreement, that the work of this Observatory that we are establishing thanks to your decision and your work, will receive financial and technical support.
I wanted to thank you most sincerely for this. It is very important, honourable Members, that we have a good understanding of these phenomena and these infringements so that we may act appropriately and not in the wrong way. It is now the tool that we will put in place, which is starting to be put in place, and which will be possible thanks to you.
Alajos Mészáros, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (HU) Mr President, Commissioner, the proposal being debated gives the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market the task of running the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Privacy. My opinion is that the idea is very practical in approach and is viable for that reason. The office has the necessary infrastructure and professional background to perform effectively the new tasks assigned to the observatory.
The report changed the name of the observatory to the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights. The new name reflects the wide-ranging tasks and coordinating role assigned to the observatory. It is well known that counterfeiting causes considerable damage not only to the internal market and national economies, but also to citizens of the European Union directly. It is precisely for that reason that the Member States need to develop law enforcement strategies together and regularly exchange best practices. From now on the observatory will be the platform for that.
The committee’s report is balanced. My colleagues and I strived to ensure that the text of the regulation considers all aspects of the effective operation of the observatory. It is not by chance that it refers to the special situation of small- and medium-sized enterprises and the representation of cultural and creative sectors. We likewise regarded effective relations between the national authorities, the private sector and the institutions of the European Union as important. In order for citizens to become aware of the negative impacts of counterfeiting too, the observatory needs keep its partners across Europe suitably informed.
The Member States need to do the same in reverse. Raising awareness of the social and economic damage caused by infringements of rights could make it easier to ensure that rights are respected and to enforce the law. We can rightly trust that a well structured observatory with the appropriate legal background will be able to perform its work effectively.
Evelyn Regner, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, rapporteur, intellectual property rights could be described as one of the pillars of the European knowledge society. Intellectual property is one of Europe’s most important resources. It is quite clear, therefore, that these rights need to be adequately defended and protected from counterfeiting and imitation, from piracy.
One of the reason why the European Commission tabled its proposal to combine the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, which was set up in 2009, with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market was to ensure protection in Europe from counterfeiting and product piracy. The idea behind this – to encourage better coordination between the authorities involved in enforcement of intellectual property rights – can only be a good thing in administrative terms, and will simplify the prosecution of crimes in this area.
Nonetheless, Commissioner, I would like to pass on a few thoughts to you. At present, we Members of the European Parliament are receiving emails, enquiries from citizens, phone calls and personal contacts regarding ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with which everyone is familiar. Citizens in all the Member States fear this as an attack on their personal data, and they fear that mass surveillance is becoming a reality. Europe was and is a defender of fundamental rights and citizens’ rights, and points the way for other countries in the international community, and that must remain the case in the future.
It appears that in future this Observatory will also be dealing with matters that are covered by ACTA. I would therefore ask you to bear in mind that the Commission must ensure that European citizens have unrestricted and secure Internet access. Moreover, the Office must support the authorities in the Member States and not take action itself – that has been expressly clarified, although the Commission proposal leaves the matter open. Finally, and very importantly, the relevant representatives of civil society, particularly consumer representatives, Internet protagonists, users and independent actors – in other words, all those who play an important role in the 21st century – would like to be involved in its consultations.
Christian Engström, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, the main problem with intellectual property policy, both at EU level and in most of the Member States, is that it is almost completely based on what industry lobbyists are claiming, which is founded on very little proper research.
There are very many reports on intellectual property that have been compiled by the lobbyists basically taking one big number out of thin air, multiplying it by another big number and saying: ‘Wow, we lose this amount of money’ (or jobs, or whatever).
One prime example of such a report is the terrorism report, which was actually mentioned in the Commission’s communication on this observatory. So I am very concerned about this observatory, but many people – including people from the OHIM – have said ‘No, the observatory will start collecting proper academic research’. If that actually is the case, I think it would be extremely valuable, because there is a lot of very good academic research showing that the issue of intellectual property and intellectual property infringements is not necessarily as simple as the lobbyists are saying, far from it.
To give the proposal the benefit of the doubt – despite my misgivings about it – hopefully the observatory can be something good if it really focuses on proper academic research. For that reason, I will be abstaining rather than voting against this proposal.
Sajjad Karim, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, may I start off by thanking Mr Masip Hidalgo for the very comprehensive way in which he has dealt with this matter and the very cooperative fashion in which he has dealt with all colleagues who have been engaged with him.
Of all the briefs that I have been involved with since I have been in this Parliament, by far the biggest challenge for me has been the whole intellectual property debate, and the biggest part of the challenge has been trying to keep up with the game, because by the time we have legislated and moved to where we feel we need to be at, the whole agenda seems to have moved on. Therefore it is absolutely essential that we have a body like this in place that is able to advise us and give us guidance as to where we need to be moving next.
Along with that, politically, I believe there is a need, across this House and in the European Union generally, to have a greater understanding of the value of IP rights and ensure that this is culturally and economically properly understood in Europe, because we have a huge amount at stake. One only needs to look to see how, economically, we need to grow at this moment at time.
Where is that growth going to come from? Well, a big part of our growth agenda can be fulfilled from the potentials that we have in innovation and what our thinkers right across the European Union are doing in the creative industries. Just to quote from one report, across the G20 nations, the internet economy amounted to 4.1% of GDP or USD 2.3 trillion in 2010. That is larger than the economies of Italy or Brazil. In other leading economies it contributed 8% of GDP, powering growth economically and creating jobs. By 2016, we expect there to be 3 billion internet users globally and the internet economy will reach USD 4.2 trillion in the G20 nations.
We therefore need to make sure that we have the correct policy portfolio in place so that we are able to exploit this new and expanding market, and that the Observatory is well placed to be able to assist us to do that.
Certainly, from my Group’s perspective, we were at the forefront of ensuring that SMEs play their part in this and that their interests are protected fully as well.
Paul Nuttall, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, this is essentially a commercial problem, and if action is needed, then it is a situation crying out to be addressed by the private sector acting in its own commercial interests, under the law. But instead we get this report, which has all the hallmarks of everything which is worst about the EU and the Commission in particular, because it is going to be done using taxpayers’ money.
I thought there was a crisis on. I thought we were living in a time of austerity necessitated by excessive government debt but, as ever, the taxpayer will be required to provide money that he or she can ill afford. The Commission likes to pretend that this will not require any extra resources, but I am more likely to believe that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle. We are creating and extending a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies always set out to justify themselves by showing both the massive scale of the problem and the need for more complex solutions. You can see it in this report and in the proposed legislation. It states facts which can only be conjecture. It is telling that you cannot be precise, or even necessarily in the right ballpark, when assessing grey economic activity.
I do not see any proof that this new extension of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market will either save EUR 10 billion or 185 000 jobs, yet that is the claim. To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ Before I could back any of the proposals such as this, I would require some kind of guarantee that this would work and save the taxpayer money. I do not want to be unkind, but is it not nice for the office to be put in Alicante? You would think that an office like this would be put in an established commercial centre or a place associated with innovation, entrepreneurship and growth, but it is placed on the Costa Blanca. It reminds me of the famous song ‘Oh we do like to live beside the seaside, oh we do like to live beside the sea’ because – come on, let us get real – we are once again seeing taxpayers’ money being thrown at ‘jobs for the boys’ corporatism. Where is the evidence for European consumers and taxpayers that they will be better off? That would be a real impact assessment, not the usual Commission approach of assuming what it seeks to prove.
What we have here is the usual manifestation of the Commission’s proposals, because it will be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It will never, ever, be brought in at a saving to the taxpayer. It will become eventually, as all these things always do, another bureaucratic monster. It is no more than a proto-agency right now but, as ever, it will grow and it will grow. I predict that, sitting there by the Costa Brava beach, the office and its lucky bureaucrats will become bloated on sun, sangria and paella.
Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate Mr Masip Hidalgo on the work he has done, which recognises the key role played by the defence of intellectual property rights as an indispensable instrument for economic growth in the European Union, in that it creates jobs and protects cultural diversity.
Infringements of intellectual property rights effectively do enormous damage to Union revenues and it is essential to strengthen our efforts to combat unlawful acts through collaboration between national authorities, European Union institutions and industry experts.
The adoption of this measure answers this need and enables us to lay the foundation for creating a single market for intellectual property rights.
Embedding the Observatory within the European Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market will in fact ensure that it has the human, financial and logistical resources it needs in order to carry out its task in an effective manner.
We are at the start of a long journey, during which we shall have to monitor and evaluate the Observatory’s activities with close and careful attention.
Infringement of intellectual property rights in fact occurs on many levels, requiring different degrees of protection and recognition by Member States.
It will be essential to continue to make use of the expertise of national authorities and the many specific representative organisations.
This will enable us to strengthen the technical skills of the Observatory, thereby simultaneously ensuring that every intellectual property right is recognised at the EU level without any hierarchical ordering of the level of protection and recognition.
Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D). - (PL) Mr President, since 1996 the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in Alicante has been the official body for the registration of EU trade marks and, since 2003, for registered EU designs. There has been a complete and well-functioning harmonisation in this regard in all Member States. One measure of this body’s success is the fact that last year alone it received over 98 000 trade mark applications and almost 82 000 designs, which testifies to the increasing importance of protection at European Union level. This growing trust in OHIM means that it now seems appropriate to extend its scope of activity, in accordance with EU law of course and, in particular, with the Charter of Fundamental Rights which guarantees respect for all citizens’ freedoms as well as due protection for personal data.
The recent noisy demonstrations against the ACTA agreement have shown that excessively secret negotiations are not acceptable to our citizens. I hope that the new observatory in Alicante will function in a transparent manner for the good of citizens and not under the pressure of lobbyists from large corporations. Finally, I would like to extend sincere congratulations to the rapporteur for a task that was very well done.
Alexandra Thein (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, in 2009 the European Parliament resolved to set up a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in order to capture reliable objective data on the actual number of counterfeit and imitation products, rather than being solely reliant on the data made available by producers and the trade. The Observatory, which in the end only commenced operations in 2010, was a complete success. It has become a centre of excellence, collecting information and data on all the counterfeit products – such as drugs, toys and car parts – that threaten the lives and health of our citizens.
This Observatory, which was co-managed by the Commission – the bottom line is that it was actually only co-managed – now needs to be restructured, and given additional human and other resources to deal with the increase in its tasks. To bring this about, we have decided – for reasons of costs and efficiency – not to establish a new agency, but to utilise an existing agency and, in effect, to transfer the Observatory’s tasks to the existing agency, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in Alicante. This agency in fact employs 650 people, and they are already responsible for the registration of Community trade marks and designs.
May I therefore explicitly repeat to the Member from the United Kingdom – who has, unfortunately, already left – that this Office is therefore able to work on a cost-neutral basis, because it finances itself from the fees received for the said trade marks; in other words, we are merely imposing additional tasks on an existing agency and are benefiting from the agreement on fees. I would also like to repeat that analysis of the problem of data theft is mentioned only in the recitals, and that it is stated there that the Observatory will primarily deal with counterfeiting and product piracy.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Sajjad Karim (ECR), Blue-card question. – Mr President, Ms Thein has been most gracious in her comments.
Ms Thein, you made reference to a British colleague and I wonder if you would agree with me, based upon what he said, that he quite clearly has no idea what he is talking about. He has attended here today with a prepared script, has not once attended the committee, has not once made a single statement in committee and has not moved a single amendment by either himself or anybody in his delegation or in his Group. He certainly does not speak for the British position on this. I hope you will agree with me when I say that.
Alexandra Thein (ALDE), Blue-card answer. – (DE) The obvious answer to that question is yes. I think that was the point of the question. I find it genuinely regrettable that comments are made here without any detailed knowledge of the facts.
I, too, come from a liberal party that is extremely concerned about costs and efficiency, and naturally I hope that the people working there are performing their duties properly. Above all, however, I hope that this agency will continue to work on a cost-neutral basis by continuing to finance itself from fees and requiring no subsidies of any kind.
Eva Lichtenberger (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, I would first like to thank Mr Masip for having genuinely allowed a very open debate to take place on this report and for having also incorporated some of the suggestions made by the other shadow rapporteurs, which I consider very important.
It is quite clear that intellectual property rights infringements involving counterfeit goods are a serious problem. I believe, however, that we cannot overcome this merely by concentrating on penalties and enforcement. We need to choose new, different strategies here if we are to be able to make a really clear response. For me, the most important thing is that the methodology chosen by this Observatory is reliable; that we get reliable data, with the involvement of civil society; and that new business models and data protection issues are taken into consideration.
According to this report, the old strategies are not working. We need to recognise that, and it is something that I see as a problem. Fortunately, the wording has been improved. We will be monitoring things closely to see whether practice will also improve, because I really cannot see any sign of that at present.
Emma McClarkin (ECR). - Mr President, today we are discussing the European Observatory, which will help to provide independent data and facilitate the exchange of good practice in the very real area of counterfeiting and piracy.
Firstly, I am glad to see that the initial proposal from the Commission has undergone a number of changes within Parliament and the Council, especially when it comes to the governance model. The Member States forming part of the Administrative Board are important to the governance structure and their oversight is legitimising the work, as the Office should be policy-informing instead of policy-leading.
I welcome the European Observatory, as there has been a lack of independent data and harmonised activity across the EU in the area of counterfeiting and piracy. The collection of data in this area will be increasingly important as a source of evidence to inform the debate on copyright infringement and IPR abuse.
However, we do not want to see a duplication of effort in protecting IPR. The Office should be taking into account the existing information obligations on Member States relating to intellectual property infringements.
As a member of the Committee on Culture and Education, I have been following the opinion on this report, which I also finally supported. The Committee on Culture’s opinion called for more recognition of the cultural dimension of IPR, and stressed the importance of people from the cultural and creative sectors participating in meetings of the Observatory.
I have submitted amendments that will allow the Observatory to focus on all types of IPR infringements.
Another important issue is to have the Office support the activities of national authorities as well as private industry, but it should provide observations, not strict recommendations to Member States.
I am indeed relieved that we, in these difficult financial times, are able to save the taxpayers money by efficient use of financial and human resources and at no cost to the EU budget.
With the governance model in the final proposal being much more satisfactory, and the description of the tasks and responsibilities of the Observatory now being more concrete, I am now happy to vote in favour of the final report.
Marielle Gallo (PPE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I too would like to start by congratulating Mr Masip Hidalgo and the shadow rapporteurs.
Why is this legislative initiative so important? It is important because, at the moment, some political leaders and some Members of Parliament are still not convinced of the need to provide effective protection for intellectual property rights. However, it has been proven that infringements of intellectual property rights have disastrous economic consequences for companies and for employment. Yet the detailed studies showing this have been criticised. Their impartiality has been called into question.
Now, by calling on experts and interested parties who represent various sectors and a wide range of interests, the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights will work with transparency and provide objective, reliable, relevant and comparable data on the value of intellectual property rights and infringements of these rights. Its forum will allow for exchanges of views and discussion on new economic models to encourage the development of the legal offer. I truly believe that this change marks a fundamental step towards helping national authorities and the private sector to protect European creativity, innovation and know-how in the internal market and abroad.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Paul Rübig (PPE), Blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, please could I request that a technician fix my microphone, because it is not working.
I would like to ask Ms Gallo whether this Observatory will particularly ensure that individuals who hold intellectual property rights, and small and medium-sized enterprises who own such rights, are also covered in a way commensurate with their size – because it is very important for small businesses in particular to have such protection. Will there also be recommendations for small and medium-sized enterprises regarding how they can safeguard their intellectual property rights in future?
Marielle Gallo (PPE), Blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, I am quite capable of answering this question since so-called ‘civil society’ will be brought in to be consulted, to participate in the discussion forum and to give their views. Therefore, small and medium-sized enterprises will obviously be involved and they will have every opportunity to make their voices heard. We cannot show mistrust for this tool, which is nevertheless an excellent technical tool, before it is even put in place. On the contrary, we must believe in it and join forces to make it work as best we can.
Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D). – (RO) Mr President, a harmonised, progressive approach to intellectual property rights is vital to fulfilling the ambitious objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, including the Digital Agenda for Europe. The Office provides a forum that brings together public authorities and representatives of the private sector, ensuring the collection, analysis and dissemination of objective, comparable and reliable data concerning the value of intellectual property rights and the infringements of those rights, identifying and promoting best practices and strategies to ensure respect for intellectual property rights, and raising public awareness of the impact of intellectual property right infringements.
The European Parliament considers that respect for citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms is essential. Measures aimed at protecting intellectual property must not infringe citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms. European legislation, through the Telecoms package, bans service providers from filtering Internet content unless authorisation to do so is granted by a judge. The Observatory must only support and be restricted to implementing specific European legislation.
Andreas Schwab (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Barnier, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to mention that I think that, with the agreement we have reached here on the basis of the Commission proposal, we will be able to take a significant step forward in informing young people of the consequences that product piracy and the buying of counterfeit products have for their health, but also for the European economy.
In this connection may I remind you of the very positive initiative to create a European prize taken by the European trade mark office following the establishment of this Observatory; a prize for the best ideas from young people as to how we can communicate more effectively the negative consequences that product piracy or the buying of counterfeit products can have.
Mr Masip Hidalgo was with me last week in Brussels – as were you, Commissioner – when we were able to present some really excellent short films which, in very simple language and without automatically engaging in moral criticism, shed light on the problems that product piracy and counterfeit products cause for European industry. These have also been awarded prizes by the Commission.
I believe that, despite all the different views represented in this House where the detail is concerned, we are all united in the view that we need a better, more understandable, more communicative strategy for showing young people in particular what the abuse of the possibilities offered by the Internet can mean in the final event for the European economy, and for their parents’ jobs. We still need more campaigns on this. We are definitely on the right path – but I believe, Commissioner, we should try to consolidate this path; we should not just give out awards for really good ideas, but also incorporate such ideas into European political communications.
I think it would be a great contribution if the European Parliament were to award one of these short clips the LUX Prize that we give out each year for excellence in European film, so that reference is made to the negative consequences of product piracy even in the opening credits of the film.
Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE). – (HU) Mr President, ensuring uniform market protection of intellectual property rights at the appropriate level is of key importance to the economy of the European Union.
The European framework for intellectual property rights needs to be changed in such a way that it preserves the rights already granted to companies and citizens, while also meeting the needs of the online world and the global competition of ideas.
On the other hand, we must not fall into the trap of overregulation, which, as we can see in the case of ACTA for example, can give rise to anxiety, speculation and at times even hysteria. Progress depends in part on new ideas and new knowledge. However, innovation will not strike anyone as an attractive investment possibility if we do not protect intellectual property rights in the necessary way. That is why the European Observatory is important, which could even be […] of European knowledge ....
(The President cut off the speaker)
Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). – (SK) Mr President, issues of intellectual property protection have recently become highly politicised, and have come to the forefront of public interest due to the disputed ACTA agreement. On this occasion, I would like to raise the question of whether the current patent protection is the most effective and the fairest possible. I would like to mention in particular the patent law that allows pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs for fatal diseases at a high price. Moreover, under the threat of sanctions, they can prevent the production and sale of far cheaper generic drugs. Technically, therefore, it is not a problem to prevent the death of people, but legally it is impossible, because the pharmaceutical corporations do not want to give up their profits from sales and are preventing the attainment of what is technically possible. The existence of the patent in its present form thus leads directly to the needless death and suffering of many people.
Iosif Matula (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, intellectual property in any form is an important issue at EU level. According to the studies conducted, piracy makes companies less motivated to be innovative, which has an impact on the number of jobs and poses a risk to our citizens’ health. Counterfeiting does not only affect luxury items, but also items of everyday use, including medicines and food. Indeed, the extent of the problem requires a coordinated approach to the relevant policies at EU level. Another requirement is cooperation with third countries and the development of technical assistance programmes targeting new counterfeiting methods.
I would like to highlight the differentiation which we need to make between piracy and personal use, while also informing the public about the multiple impact caused by the infringement of intellectual property rights. The transparency of the decisions made by the Office for …
(The President cut off the speaker)
Elena Băsescu (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, I think that the amendment being tabled is ideal in light of the budgetary constraints of the European institutional system. Merging the powers of the Office with those of the Observatory means a higher profile for external decision-makers. I support the proposal for ensuring the transparency of every procedure involved in the operation of this mechanism.
I also support the exchange of good practices by SMEs on intellectual property rights management. Amendment 6 of the report is relevant, as a structure set up in this way can support the development of the new business models. Diversification of activities must be accompanied by suitable protection for the intellectual property rights used. This is why Member States, the Commission and Office need to be in permanent communication with each other. At the same time, European citizens must be kept informed and be actively involved in the operation of the Office.
Paul Rübig (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, I would like to ask Commissioner Barnier about the situation as regards brand equity. The term is always being bandied about by big business, but it is something that is of particular importance for exports by small and medium-sized enterprises on the international stage. Can you envisage that in future this Office might also determine the costs of intellectual property, at a global level, and that this transparency comparison will then also show the position in Europe and whether individual artists who assert their copyright here can afford to get this international protection?
(End of catch-the-eye procedure)
Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. – (FR) Mr President, I am grateful to each and every one of you for your speeches and your support, even if there are some legitimate questions and reservations about this observatory.
Firstly, I should like to confirm to Ms Regner and Mr Engström that, following an amendment by Mr Masip Hidalgo (Amendment 31), civil society will have a role to play in the functioning of this observatory and this role is well recognised in the final text. This is one of the improvements — I call it as I see it — which was made by Parliament to the Commission’s initial text. As Ms McClarkin recalled, the text has been improved and I wanted to thank you for that.
I should also like to tell Ms Geringer and Ms Lichtenberger that the work of the Observatory is getting underway. I can confirm this; I was in Alicante all day on Friday, where I met the small team which is getting this work underway with a great deal of skill, independence and professionalism and which will gain in power. I think I can say, Mr Engström, with my thanks for your objective expectations regarding the work of this observatory, that the methodology will be reliable and the work will be objective and transparent.
I should also like to tell Ms McClarkin that, thanks to Amendment 13, which was tabled, we will avoid any duplication. The office in Alicante already works with national regulators — I was there on Friday while a meeting was taking place with all of the representatives from the national regulators who work with the Alicante office — and this office will allow us to facilitate this work and avoid duplication with national supervisors and therefore ensure that the European office (with the European Observatory) works well and works intelligently with national supervisors.
I want to thank Mr Mészáros for his support. I should like to tell Ms Gallo and Mr Engström that this work is very important. We are taking great care to deal with it objectively and credibly. We are dealing with it in positive way; I also spoke about this with Mr Campinos, the very dynamic President of the Trade Marks Office in Alicante. It is a question of giving an objective, concrete and reliable representation of what intellectual property means for the economy, growth and jobs and to do so in a positive and entirely credible way. A number of economic studies will therefore be carried out on precisely what the development of intellectual property means for economy.
It is not about criminalising — Mr Engström, you will remember that in a public committee debate I told you that it was not my intention to criminalise or point the finger at young people — but, first and foremost, it is about explaining, as you quite rightly pointed out, Mr Schwab, and, together with Mr Masip Hidalgo, you have given us an example of this with the prize for young people or young entrepreneurs. I am a firm believer in contracts rather than constraints. By showing what this represents not only for the economy but also for other areas — Ms Flašíková and Mr Matula mentioned the public health and safety problems that can be caused by counterfeit products, particularly counterfeit medicines — we will set about using this positive explanation to show how damaging piracy and counterfeiting can be for the economy and for public health and safety.
Thanks to the objective work of this observatory we will be able to develop information campaigns. We will also develop cooperation with the countries where these counterfeit products are coming from, as I told you, Mr Schwab. I was in China a few days ago specifically to talk about this. We will increase support for developing technology for detecting counterfeit goods and we will also, together with Mr Šemeta, improve training for the men and women who work on the various external borders of Europe (customs services, police) to participate in joint training on the fight against counterfeiting.
That is what we will be able to do thanks to this observatory, which I firmly believe in, and that is also why I am thanking you for your support.
Ms Ţicău, Mr Baldassarre and Mr Karim mentioned the importance of innovation for the economy. That is also why, honourable Members, I am attaching so much importance to another instrument for protecting intellectual property, that is, the patent. Within a few weeks, we will finally arrive at the point of creating a patent, a single procedure for protecting industrial inventions, after 25 years of waiting, for at least 25, and, I hope, 27 countries. This will also serve to support innovation and creativity and therefore employment.
I will not respond at length to Mr Nuttall, who has now left the Chamber, save to confirm what Ms Thein said, and I thank her for that. There will be no call for public contributions precisely because we are setting up this observatory to be supported by Alicante and because, as you explained very well Ms Thein, the Alicante office operates without public contributions, but with taxes and trade mark fees.
One million trade marks are protected in Alicante. Mr Rübig asked about small and medium-sized enterprises, as did Ms Băsescu. Yet, out of these one million trade marks, several hundred thousand, and I was able to see this, are trade marks or designs which are protected by small, sometimes very small, and medium-sized enterprises.
It is also within our interest, Mr Rübig, to be situated in Alicante, because, there, with all of the open technology that is in place to enable us to search for, find and check trade marks, as I was able to see, we can rely on this network of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the main clients of the Office of Trade Marks in Alicante.
Mr President, I should like to finish by mentioning a point that Ms Regner and Ms Gáll-Pelcz mentioned, which is somewhat separate from this issue but which is important: the seemingly mounting controversy which arises at times in relation to the question of ACTA. I should like to invite all of the MEPs and interested parties to prove their objectiveness on this point and to be careful not to draw any hasty or definitive conclusions on these complex issues, because those of us called on to take part in the decision because of our respective institutional competences must all display a spirit of responsibility.
I would also like to hope that you will go ahead with the hearing you have planned on the question of ACTA for the beginning of March. This will be a good opportunity to get to the heart of the matter objectively, dispassionately — this is important — so that you yourselves may take a responsible decision in full knowledge of the facts. My colleague in charge of trade, Karel De Gucht, will explain himself fully in detail on this point at the debates planned for the end of February and the beginning of March in Parliament.
On the subject of ACTA, I would just like to confirm that the Commission believes that ACTA would be a useful legal tool for ensuring greater respect and more efficient protection of intellectual property rights on an international scale. It is an instrument aimed at encouraging third countries to ensure a high, fair level of protection for intellectual property rights and, eventually, the same level that we have here in Europe. The Commission has always believed that ACTA will not change the acquis communautaire. This instrument will therefore not entail any obligation to make changes to the acquis communautaire, neither to the e-commerce directive nor the directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
We also believe, honourable Members, that ACTA is consistent with the EU Treaties, including — as Ms Regner mentioned — the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.
That is all I wanted to say on this point. Thank you for your attention and your questions, and thank you very much to Mr Masip Hidalgo for his support and for the improvements he has made to this text with the help of each and every one of you.
Perhaps in addition — I was thinking about this when I was listening to Mr Schwab — it would be useful for some of you from all of the political groups to go to Alicante to see for yourselves how this office operates once this report has been adopted and once the observatory is in place with this small team whom I met. There you will also see that the sunshine does not stop them from working hard, quite the opposite.
I therefore suggest that a delegation of Members from all of the political groups — and perhaps I could go back with you — should go and see how the Office of Trade Marks and Designs operates and how this observatory, which you are establishing through your decision, can start to operate.
IN THE CHAIR: EDWARD McMILLAN-SCOTT Vice-President
Antonio Masip Hidalgo, rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, many thanks to the shadow rapporteurs and all the members of the Committee on Legal Affairs who have worked so hard with me on this report. I have tried to include all their suggestions, not just in the text, but also in terms of the pace and the timetable which they themselves suggested.
I would like to say to them, in all humility, that I hope to be able to help them as well and as faithfully as they have helped me when I make my contributions to the reports they will soon be undertaking themselves, particularly Mr Karim, with whom I hope to work in depth.
However, given that we are speaking in the context of parliamentary courtesy, I should also like to suggest to Ms Lichtenberger and Mr Engström, who have worked very hard on this matter and whom I have consulted so often, that between now and the part-session in March, when we will vote on this report, they reconsider their abstentions, which they cast on the basis of preconceived ideas and uncertainty about whether the theory matches up with the reality. No, we are going to trust that the theory is both theory and good practice too. If they vote in favour, with us, and this report is approved — perhaps not unanimously by all Members but definitely by all the parliamentary groups, by the heads of the parliamentary groups — this will give us greater legitimacy to demand, as Ms Lichtenberger says, that practice and theory truly are not two different things, but rather that they are one and the same; that this can be achieved and that all of you can see it through, as I believe you deserve in your work.
Lastly, I should mention that we could not go without the daily outburst of euroscepticism in Parliament, which was in fact quite disgraceful, since the person is not even here to listen to our response.
Alicante, both city and region, cannot be blamed for being a seaside place, nor for being a heavenly location. It cannot be criticised either for being the place where Mr Campinos and all his team have done such an excellent job, as Mr Barnier has quite rightly said. We have visited them there. I led a European Union delegation on that visit, and I was fascinated by the work they are doing in Alicante. Anyone who still has any doubts about this issue should join the next delegation that Mr Barnier has encouraged us to arrange so that we can visit Alicante again.
I would like to say to this eurosceptic that, when he was talking about something he knew nothing about, as Mr Karim quite rightly said, I was thinking about something that I do know about, the British writer Aldous Huxley, who at the end of his great novel Point Counter Point quotes the Bible through Burlap, one of his main characters, who says: ‘Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’
Indeed, the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of Parliament, is made up of people such as these, who do not know what they are talking about, but they are – I hope – a qualified minority.
Paul Rübig (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, freedom of speech in Parliament requires a working microphone system. The button for switching on my microphone is broken. May I request that a technician restores my freedom of speech?
President. − The debate is closed.
The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 14 February 2012).
Written statements (Rule 149)
Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing. – (IT) The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, set up in 2009, has become a centre of expertise for gathering, monitoring and reporting information related to infringements of intellectual property rights and a platform for cooperation in which stakeholders exchange ideas on best practice with a view to developing strategies for protecting intellectual property rights. I welcome the Commission’s proposal to entrust the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market with the tasks of the Observatory, with a view to improving its operations and improving the manner in which it fulfils its recently expanded responsibilities. In a context of the exponential growth of instances of counterfeiting and piracy, reducing the incentive for innovation of European enterprises and contributing to a reduction in the number of jobs, I believe it is appropriate to strengthen a coordinated policy in this regard. I should underline, moreover, that in terms of certain categories of products (medicines, toys, household electrical appliances, and so on), counterfeiting threatens human health and leads to a considerable decrease in the protection available to European consumers. I should like to stress the importance of guaranteeing that the information collected and disseminated by the Office for Harmonisation fulfils the criteria with regard to completeness and quality of data and that its activities are guided by robust transparency principles.