IP benefits innovation, companies and society. The copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret and other protection for ‘intellectual property’ (IP) is fundamental for promoting innovation in the many different fields of technology and creativity. Giving creators, inventors and other developers the legal rights in their IP rewards them for their innovation, and provides a virtuous circle of ongoing investment in research, development and creativity. Everyone benefits – the economy overall, the small and large companies engaged in crucial innovative and creative activities, and society at large -- which enjoys the continuing stream of products, services and technological and cultural enrichment that IP promotes. Microsoft supports effective intellectual property protection for everyone engaged in innovation and creativity.
IP supports the EU’s intellectual economy. Europe has a long tradition of supporting inventors and creators through intellectual property protection. For many years, EU directives and regulations have supported a more harmonised system of IP protection throughout the region. Beginning with various customs, copyright and trademark legislation, and now enshrined formally in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, Europe has long recognised the importance of IP. As the region continues to move to a truly intellectual economy, more and more high value-added jobs will come from sectors that are devoted to the development of ‘products of the mind’ dependent upon IP. Microsoft believes that the EU’s IP legislation largely reflects robust, balanced rules well-suited to the modern economy. Developing a unitary EU Patent system that is efficient, cost-effective and of high-quality would be an important next step.
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IP requires fair, effective enforcement. As with any legal rights, intellectual property is only as valuable as the enforcement available to address infringement of those rights. The diversity of practice across the EU, and the limited minimum IP enforcement requirements reflected in EU directives, mean that the effectiveness of such enforcement can vary substantially – as reflected in the high incidence of counterfeiting and piracy in some Member States, compared with very low rates of piracy in other Member States. Microsoft and the broader software industry believe that selective improvements could be made in many EU countries’ IP enforcement systems. It is important that such systems be effective to stop and deter counterfeiting, piracy and other IP infringements, while respecting proportionality, reasonableness and due process.
IP supports the international trading system. Healthy international trade depends on trading partners respecting the IP rights of all, as reflected in the 1994 WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), and the new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Indeed, effective protections IP increase foreign investment and technology transfer into developing countries, given that such protections increase trading partners’ and private IP owners’ confidence in such markets. Microsoft and the wide spectrum of IP-reliant industries support such international intellectual property agreements, and the EU’s efforts to ensure a ‘level playing field’ with its trading partners on IP issues. Microsoft also believes that fair trade requires that those who engage in IP infringement in the production of goods and services should not be permitted to benefit in the market from any cost or other advantage resulting from such infringement.
IP deserves public awareness and support. The importance of IP for wide sectors of the EU economy, and for millions of EU jobs, cannot be emphasised enough. IP is sometimes seen as a technical, esoteric topic, or is poorly explained in various ways. Demonstrating in understandable terms how IP works; how real people benefit from IP; how IP benefits innovation, economy and society more broadly; and why and how to avoid using IP-infringing material – all of these need to be the subject of ongoing public-awareness activities by both industry and government. Microsoft supports a number of such information campaigns, including on its own Microsoft.com website. We also support the IP awareness efforts of the industry associations to which we belong, at the EU Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, and as a member of the ideasmatter.com initiative.