Heading towards a European Intellectual Property regime?
Not yet, but nearly. The impact of Spain’s accession to the European Union has been different according to the type of intellectual property involved, but they have all been significantly affected and our intellectual property is undoubtedly now more European. The changes bringing our legislation into line with the other Member States have not escaped criticism, but in general, the task of European lawmakers and the CJEU has shed a little more light on an area in which there was constant pressure by different agents in the industry (creators, innovators, employers, users, etc.).
The Europeanization of trademarks and industrial designs has been the biggest change. Community trademarks and designs have opened up a new world of possibilities for European companies, for whom the management of portfolios of assets has been made much easier thanks to a unitary right: a single application that is valid throughout the EU. The unitary nature of these rights not only helps to eliminate trade barriers, it also smooths along the management of trademark and design portfolios as regards their legal defense from a pan-European standpoint. For Spain, the existence of trademarks and Community designs is particularly important given that the agency responsible for their management, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), is located in Alicante. Alicante receives the main European trademark law firms, making it a top-level European decision-making center.
In addition, legislation on the protection of innovation, and specifically patents, is a clear reflection of a country’s political and economic situation and of its level of development. Spain’s entry to the EU had a major impact on the legal protection of patents since it involved Spain’s accession to the European Patent Convention (Munich Convention of 1973), as well as the approval of Patent Law 11/1986 of March 20, 1986, which modernized its regulations and brought us closer to neighboring countries, eliminating anachronisms and permitting patentability and the gradual strengthening of important inventions such as chemical and pharmaceutical patents.
Copyrights have also been greatly affected. Purely from the standpoint of legislation, Spain has implemented European Directives on the subject internally. A good example is Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Council and of the Parliament, of May 22, 2001, on the harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society. Along these same lines, Spain also respects the rulings of the CJEU on the subject, whose interpretation is crucial for jurists and stakeholders. All of this has helped to create a much more harmonized legislation between the Member States which has undoubtedly improved the exploitation of intellectual intangibles . There is still a long way to go before a European digital single market —one of the aims of the European Digital Agenda —is created, but it can be said that accession to the European Union has helped us progress towards harmonization.
Garrigues Intellectual Property Department