September 26, 2014

What IP Nerds Need to Know About the New European Commission

By Ashley Mergen

Scottish (in)dependence, coalition governments in Afghanistan, and potential changing of majorities in the U.S. Congress: everyone loves a good shake-up every now and then. And that’s exactly what the European Commission (EC) delivered early this month, with president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker unveiling his vast reorganization of the bureaucracy in Brussels.

Recognizing that there are few things less enticing than pouring over an org chart, we here at the GIPC have pieced together the who’s who of the future decision-makers on intellectual property issues in the EC for you:

  • Cecilia Malmström (Trade) – Inevitably, as functional head of the EC’s trade portfolio, Malmström will take over for Belgium’s Karel De Gucht as de facto leader on all things Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP – or better known as the U.S.-EU free trade agreement). Initial reaction to the nomination of this pro-trade, consensus-building Swede drew praise.
  • Elżbieta Bieńkowska (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs) – If confirmed, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister will oversee an office that is born from the merging of the Directorate-General for Internal Market and Services (DG MARKT) and the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR). Bieńkowska will be tasked with “extending the principle of mutual recognition in the single market designing new policy measures to address remaining obstacles to a fully functioning single market for goods and services,” as well as “raising the profile and importance of industry in the economy.” Furthermore, the folks who handle trademark registrations (Office for Harmonization of the Internal Market) will also report to Bieńkowska.
  • Guenther Oettinger (Digital Economy & Society) – As part of the grand reshuffle at the EC, Juncker made a stunning (and unsettling) decision to move copyright policy from the DG MARKT portfolio to the Digital Economy & Society agenda. Why is the former German Energy Commissioner at the forefront of digital and copyright policy, you ask? The EC is traditionally unabashed at appointing officials new to certain policy areas, in an effort to divest them from any home-country policy biases.
  • Carlos Moedas (Research, Science, Innovation) – To a lesser degree than his predecessors on this list, Portuguese politician and engineer Carlos Moedas could potentially affect IP policy through his work promoting research capacities and innovation strategies of Member states.
  • Vytenis Andriukatis (Health & Food Safety) – Again, though IP policy may not be at the forefront of this Lithuanian Health Minister’s agenda, it’s worth keeping an eye on how his work around Europe’s health systems and EU-funded research projects.

Also of note, the European Patent Office remains independent from the Commission and is not affected by the Juncker revamp. All of the aforementioned officials, furthermore, are pending confirmation by parliament next month. However, in the interest of shake-ups, we’ll keep an eye on whether this 2014 European Commission IP “dream team” will make it through the nomination period intact.

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