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Intellectual Property Rights

The European Union and Japan are like-minded partners, sharing common interests and similar concerns on protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR). Innovation and creativity drive economic growth in both the EU and Japan. They also help give consumers more choice and create jobs.

The EU and Japan already export and import to and from each other many goods and services which depend heavily on intellectual property. But there is room for improvement. In the on-going negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement we want to:

  • raise awareness of the role of IPR in encouraging innovation and creativity
  • protect the people and firms that come up with new ideas and use them to make high quality products by enforcing IPR rules in a balanced way
  • encourage investment in research and development that produces new ideas, and branding of products and services.



What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights enable authors, artists, designers, inventors and other IPR users to decide how their creations and inventions are used. These rights, most of which are time-limited, are a key incentive to creativity and innovation, and thus improve consumer choice and job creation.

IPR fall into two categories:

(1) Industrial property, which principally comprises:
• patents, meaning new technical inventions;
• trademarks, which can be a word, logo or symbol that competitor companies may not use once it has been protected;
• designs, meaning the outward appearance of a product;
• geographical indications (GIs), which identify a product as originating in a region or locality and whose reputation or quality is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Geographical Indications are usually geographical names. But non-geographical names can also be protected if they are linked to a particular place.

In the EU-Japan FTA, the EU wants to agree with Japan on some binding commitments on GIs. These include protecting an agreed list of EU GIs, with rules to stop other producers misusing them, and enforcing those rules effectively.

(2) Copyright, covering literary and artistic works such as books, articles, plays, films, musical works, paintings, photographs, sculptures and maps. Rights related to copyright include those of performers and producers of films and rights in sound recordings and broadcasts.

In addition to the rights themselves, ensuring awareness of and respect for intellectual property, alongside appropriate mechanisms for enforcement, are essential links in the invention chain.


IPR-related policy developments in the EU

Since 2011, the EU has made significant progress in promoting intellectual property rights which are fit for purpose in the 21st century:
• a unitary patent allowing companies to have a single and affordable patent giving them protection in the EU;
• updated rules on tackling fake products at our borders;
• empowering museums and libraries to digitise Europe’s cultural heritage;
• setting up a platform for stakeholders to discuss and help address IPR infringements, in particular by collecting reliable data.

Improving the protection and enforcement of IPR in third countries is also one of the EU's trade policy objectives. This objective is being pursued inter alia through multilateral (World Trade Organisation and the World Intellectual Property Organisation), and bilateral agreements (FTAs).


Useful links

IPR-related policies of the European Commission: DG Trade; DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs; DG Agriculture and Rural Development; European Patent Office, The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market


Updated 2015.07.16