European Commissioner for Internal Market and
High Level Conference on Counterfeiting and Piracy
Brussels, 2nd April 2009
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, let me say that I have been looking forward to this event for some time, and I was disappointed not to be here for the opening this morning. But as Martin Power explained to you I had to attend an urgent meeting in London earlier today.
At last year's conference I expressed my deep concern about the threat of counterfeiting and piracy – this menace that is growing more and more dangerous by the day. I announced that the Commission would be taking serious steps to combat the problem. It was my firm view then that the only way to overcome this threat is by working together, side by side. Stakeholders, politicians, law and policy makers, enforcers, consumer groups - all of us need to cooperate.
The Observatory has been launched today to do just that - to bring together expert resources so that we can get to the bottom of this illegal trade. We need to look under the bonnet, see how this international machine operates, cut off the fuel supply and disable the engine. I am convinced that the Observatory will provide an effective and efficient means of doing this. One that is able to collect data, raise awareness, facilitate dialogue, exchange views and share best practice between stakeholders, within Member states and across the EU. It is a practical, pragmatic response to the challenges we face. As a result, I am sure we will have better cooperation, stronger collaboration and the opportunity to better target our enforcement resources.
When we met last year, you may remember that I made it clear that the conference would not be a one off event. I stressed the need to turn words into action and that the Commission would move to actively engage itself in the intricate, but essential process of fighting IPR crime.
I also underlined that for me, the key to success in this process depends mainly on non legislative measures and that it is important to develop practical solutions instead of drawing on a cluster of legislation. Our challenge is to complement the legal framework with strategies designed to make an impact on the ground. The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy gives us this start. I am deeply convinced about that.
Europe is the most creative area in the world. To consolidate that position, our overall ambition is to make sure that in Europe we have the world’s strongest knowledge based economy. And in this we must not forget the importance of the patent system. I would like to take a few moments to outline my thinking in this area.
Patents play a quiet but fundamental role in society. They protect our inventors and creators and ensure that information and ideas encourage technical and economic development. I have been especially keen to see work on the patent system in Europe progress. The lack of a unitary title and the absence of a unified patent litigation system has made it a complex and costly process for innovators – particularly SMEs – to protect their inventions and enforce patents. Last week the Commission adopted a Recommendation to the Council that provides the Commission with negotiating directives for the conclusion of an agreement creating a Unified Patent Litigation System.
European innovators and creators deserve a system that is straightforward and cost effective. On this, most Member States seem to be willing to try once again to overcome some of the problems we have faced in the past and to bridge national differences. We must take advantage of this support and drive towards a structure that will contribute to even more solid partnerships between and across Member States.
This then brings me back to what I can consider to be at the heart of the main agenda of the day. "Partnerships". As a society we face fluid challenges from counterfeiting and piracy - issues which change frequently. The mere existence of new laws, although important, cannot be expected to combat a worldwide infringement problem. So once again I stress the point that we must turn our attention towards supportive programs that can help bring to bear strong administrative commitments and resources, in conjunction with the flexibility and resourcefulness of the private sector. It should be our joint ambition to fight together and to reduce counterfeiting and piracy within a borderless internal market. Our ultimate aim should be to establish a uniform, high level of IPR enforcement within the single market. And this is exactly where our Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy fits in.
Today you have heard and discussed its aims, structures and agenda. Tomorrow and in the following months and years you will see the tangible results.
Why do I strongly believe that the Observatory will make a difference?
Firstly, because it will give us a clear indication of the vulnerabilities and the risks we face in the fight against fakes. And this will help us to place our resources where they can be used most effectively.
Secondly, because partnerships and the exchange of information have the power to drive successful strategies that will impact on the people behind this menace.
I will just conclude by leaving you with one thought.
I have read that an “OBSERVATORY, is a place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.”
This is strong advice. Left without the support and practical input of all stakeholders the Observatory will become simply a place of guesswork and speculation. I count on you to make sure that does not happen.