Council adopts conclusions on role of Intellectual Property in tackling Covid-19 pandemic

The Council today approved conclusions on Intellectual Property (IP) policy. With these conclusions, ministers recall that IP is a major driver for innovation, competitiveness, economic growth and sustainable development, and a key enabler for knowledge and tech-transfer.

The conclusions address the role of IP in helping to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and outline the importance of IP for SMEs and their economic recovery, as well as for green and digital transitions. In the case of IP infringements, ministers encourage further actions in particular against counterfeiting and piracy.

The text calls for strengthening the support for European SMEs and the protection and valorisation of SMEs’ IP rights and trade secrets as an essential factor for their competitiveness, innovation, value-generation and sustainability.

Ministers consider close cooperation among all relevant public and private actors crucial for rapidly increasing production capacities and worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines. Relying on voluntary solutions for the sharing of IP, know-how and data is seen as a promising way to ensure worldwide access to critical products for diagnosing, treating and preventing COVID-19.

The Council stresses the need for increased global support, particularly through the COVAX facility, to achieve worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines. It calls on all vaccine producing countries to actively contribute to the global efforts to increase supply worldwide.

With these conclusions, ministers recall the EU’s active engagement in the ongoing dialogue in the context of the WTO to explore effective and pragmatic approaches for a robust, rapid and universal response to the pandemic and best ways to support affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines and treatments, such as patent pooling, licensing initiatives and knowledge/vaccine sharing platforms. The conclusions recall that the EU stands ready to also discuss other tools, including the flexibilities provided for in the TRIPS Agreement.

Ministers welcome the Commission’s IP action plan of 25 November 2020 and call for the timely presentation of the legislative initiatives it announced, in particular the package reviewing the legal framework on industrial design protection, rendering it more accessible for SMEs.

Finally, the Council recalls that it stands ready to consider a system of sui generis Geographical Indications protection system of non-agricultural products, based on a thorough impact assessment of its potential costs and benefits.

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