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Protecting EU creations, inventions and designs

Protection and enforcement of intellectual property are crucial for the EU's ability to stimulate innovation and to compete in the global economy.

Trade topics
  • Intellectual property

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) (such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights or geographical indications) enable European inventors, creators and businesses to prevent unauthorised exploitation of their creations, and to receive compensation for their investment. IPRs also offer guarantees to users or consumers (e.g. geographical indications) to identify the origin of the goods concerned.

Trade and intellectual property in a nutshell:

  • Commercial-scale piracy and counterfeiting harm the sales of EU exporters.
  • IPRs support creativity and innovation. The EU needs to protect these intangible assets for growth and competitiveness.
  • Enforcing IPRs within the EU and abroad protects EU growth and jobs. When European ideas, brands and products are pirated and counterfeited, EU jobs are affected.
  • Counterfeit products can put at risk consumer safety and health, and can harm the environment. The EU supports strong IPR standards to tackle IPR infringements in the EU and abroad.
  • Rights holders need access to effective ways of protecting their rights internationally. They need a solid and predictable legal framework on IPR.

EU trade policy and intellectual property

The EU seeks to improve the protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in third countries. It pursues this objective in different ways:

The EU also conducts other support actions as part of its IP Strategy:

  • Technical cooperation programmes to help third countries improve their IPR systems.
  • Support services for EU rights holders doing business in or with certain third countries – namely the IPR SME Helpdesk, in China, Latin America and Southeast Asia. IPR SME Helpdesks provide information and advice to SMEs on intellectual property rights (IPR) in these regions. 

Enforcing intellectual property rights in EU trade policy

The EU's current strategy to enforce intellectual property rights in non-EU countries has been in place since 2014. The objective is to promote better intellectual property standards in non-EU countries and stop trade in IPR-infringing goods.

The Commission regularly conducts surveys on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The report gives EU rights' holders information on the effectiveness of IPR regimes in countries outside the EU.

It also lets rights holders improve their business strategies and operations to protect their intellectual property. They can better manage risk around their IPRs when doing business in, or with, certain non-EU countries.

This assessment also helps the EU define certain countries where the protection and/or enforcement of intellectual property are detrimental to EU interests.

The report also benefits non-EU country authorities' understanding of the perception of EU users of their IPR systems, particularly potential areas for improvement.

Report of latest IPR survey (2023)

Counterfeit and Piracy Watch-List

The EU's Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List helps identify the marketplaces outside the EU where counterfeiting, piracy or other forms of intellectual property abuse are common practice.

After conducting a public consultation, the Commission published the third edition of its Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List. The Watch List names websites and physical marketplaces outside the EU that reportedly engage in, facilitate or benefit from counterfeiting and piracy. 

2022 Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List

Current topics in trade and Intellectual property rights policy

Intellectual property rights and development policies

These links are part of initiatives discussed in the TRIPS Council.

Transfer of technology

The EU – including its member states – works to promote technology transfer, particularly to least-developed countries (LDCs). EU/national actions fostering technology transfer to LDCs are summarised in an annual submission to the WTO.

Access to medicines

The EU has consistently led efforts to facilitate access to medicines in developing countries and to strike the right balance between the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies and the need to ensure that medicines are available for populations in need in the developing world.

Geographical indications (GIs)

The EU firmly protects geographical indications – distinctive signs used to identify a product as originating in a particular geographical area. This geographical origin essentially determines the product’s quality, characteristics or reputation.


More on Intellectual Property

Intellectual property rights in other Commission departments

Other resources

Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights

Regulation 386/2012 set up the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights.

Joint reports from the EU's Intellectual Property Office and the OECD:

Strategy for the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Third Countries

Enforcement of Intellectual Property rights inside the EU

European Observatory on infringements of Intellectual Property rights

Data on goods detained at the EU border, suspected of infringing

Latest news

  • News article

The European Commission published today its biennial Report on the Protection and Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in third countries. The Third Country Report identifies so-called ‘priority countries’ where the state of IPR protection and enforcement is a source of major concern.

  • 2 min read
  • News article

The Commission’s third Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List, published today, names websites and physical marketplaces outside the EU that are reported to engage in, facilitate or benefit from counterfeiting and piracy.

  • 2 min read