European Union: Updates On European Union Law

The following is an update on relevant EU legal developments which will have an impact on doing business in the European Union. The EU has provisionally announced a trade mark reform and harmonisation package on 21 April 2015. The reform package proposes to recast current EU law in the area and harmonise registration procedures to enable increased cooperation in this area. The European Commission published its Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe report in May of this year. Finally,a recent announcement from the Ministers in the Justice Council indicated that agreement has been reached on the general approach to the European Commission's proposals for the General Data Protection Regulation.

EU trade mark reforms announced

The EU has provisionally announced a trade mark reform and harmonisation package on 21 April 2015. The reform package proposes to recast current EU law in the area and includes proposals to harmonise registration procedures to enable increased cooperation between national IP offices and the European Intellectual Property Office.

Among the changes proposed include renaming Community Trade Marks ("CTMs") as "European Trade Marks" and renaming the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market as the "European Intellectual Property Office" creating EU-wide certification marks. Changes to the fee structure for CTMs are also proposed with the aim of creating savings for businesses applying for and renewing trademarks. There are also provisions for new types of trademarks, these include sound, motion and hologram marks.

The proposals to harmonise registration procedures include harmonising filing date requirements and standards for the designation and classification of goods and services as well as the development of common search tools and databases to enable increased cooperation between national IP offices and the European Intellectual Property Office.

The proposal also includes measures to combat counterfeit goods in transit through the EU significantly increasing the volume of worldwide trade which is subject to EU trade mark enforcement measures.

Digital Single Market plans update

On 6 May 2015 the European Commission published its "Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe".

The Commission's proposals are aimed at producing a true Digital Single Market ("DSM"). The strategy paper is built around the following three "pillars":

  • Better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe
  • Creating the right conditions for digital networks and services to flourish
  • Maximising the growth potential of the European Digital Economy

The strategy paper commits the Commission's DSM project team to delivering on these different actions by the end of 2016. Attention will now focus on the reactions of the European Parliament and the European Council as well Member State governments as to measures proposed.

Data Protection Regulation update

European Council agrees its general approach to new EU data protection Regulation

The lengthy introduction of the proposed General Data Protection Regulation (the "Regulation") has progressed with the Ministers in the Justice Council recently announcing their agreed general approach on the Commission's proposals for the Regulation. This is a major step towards finalising the legislation.

Among the proposals agreed by the Council there is a confirmation that a single harmonised data protection law for the whole of Europe will replace individual laws currently in place in each Member State. Individuals will also only have to deal with their home national data protection authority ("DPA") in their own language even if their data is processed outside their home country.

Other proposals agreed by the council include:

  • Right to be forgotten – the right of citizens to control their personal identity to be recognised, subject to it not encroaching the right to freedom of expression and information
  • Jurisdiction – the Council agreed that companies located outside the EU will be required to comply with EU data protection law when offering services in the EU
  • Enhanced enforcement powers for DPAs – DPAs will be given enhanced enforcement powers including the ability to levy fines of up to €1 million euro or, in the case of companies, up to 2% of annual global company turnover
  • Reporting of data breaches – serious data breaches will have to be reported to the relevant DPA as soon as possible and within 24 hours, if feasible

The Regulation will now move to the final stages of negotiation. Negotiations between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council began on 24 June 2015 to resolve differences between the three proposals and agree the definitive legislation. The intention is to complete the process by the end of 2015 although it remains to be seen whether agreement can be reached within this timeframe.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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