The importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) in modern business cannot be overstated. Trademarks and related intellectual property represent a company’s wider brand identity, communicating to consumers messages about the firm’s reputation, products and services. Strong, well managed trademarks can also help companies to effectively manage their online and social media presence and generate a level of recognition and understanding globally. Symbols such as the golden arches of McDonald’s or the Nike ‘swoosh’ are recognisable worldwide, irrespective of language barriers. When deployed effectively, trademarks can differentiate a company from its competitors and generate considerable value for shareholders.

Intellectual property rights are a vital tool in modern economies. According to a recent study conducted by Europol and the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), approximately 89 percent of the EU’s total external trade and 39 percent of total economic activity in the EU, worth €4.7 trillion annually, is generated by IPR-intensive industries. Furthermore, around 26 percent of all employment in the EU – 56 million jobs – is provided directly by these industries, and a further 9 percent of jobs in the EU stem indirectly from IPR-intensive industries.

In an increasingly global economy, protecting IPR is becoming ever more important. Efforts are being made to revamp and update trademark regulations globally. In Europe, the Council of the European Union published on its website the final compromise texts of the amended EU Trademark Directive and Regulation, the basic legislation governing trademarks in the EU. Though the changes are not yet law, they are expected to come into force early next year and will no doubt have a major impact, making innovation more accessible, the existing trademark registration system more efficient, and improving cost, speed and legal certainty.

Oct-Dec 2015 issue

Richard Summerfield