Intellectual property rights and geographical indications

If you or your business has intellectual property, based on unique ideas, innovation or brands, it needs to be protected. Here is a guide to the various possibilities that exist to protect different types of intellectual property, along with information on how to enforce your rights. You can also find out more about EU policy on intellectual property rights and the agreements the EU has with other countries to protect EU businesses.

EU trade policy and intellectual property

The EU supports strong intellectual property rights (IPR) standards that impact businesses and consumers in the EU and abroad. The EU seeks a solid and predictable IPR legal framework for international trade, including

  • IP rights that promote innovation, guarantee a products' origin and ensure the genuine character, accompanied by prohibiting measures against any violations of these rights
  • IP rights that protect consumers against counterfeit products that do not comply with EU health and safety standards

To prevent IPR infringement, the EU adopted a revised Strategy for the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Third Countries, which focuses on

  • responding  to recent changes in the international IP environment, including  digitalisation across economic spheres, as well as new-found loopholes in IPR legislation and enforcement
  • providing the European Commission with the necessary tools to meet current challenges more effectively

As a member of The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the EU is a signatory of international IPR agreements such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The TRIPS Agreement sets the minimum standards of IPR protection to be provided by each country and procedures for the settlement of IPR related disputes.


The IPRs in the TRIPS agreement include

Intellectual property rights in EU trade agreements

The EU negotiates IPR chapters in its trade agreements with other countries and regions. The aim is to ensure that both trade partners hold the same intellectual property protection standards.

  • EU trade agreements go beyond the WTO TRIPs Agreements and address specific IPR concerns with these countries
  • you can find out more about IPR rules in EU trade agreements here

EU IPR policy towards developing countries

The EU promotes the enhancement and enforcement of IPR standards in developing countries. While better IPR protection is important for EU businesses, it also attracts technology transfers, foreign investment, research and innovation for the benefit of developing countries.

The EU is providing a range of instruments and technical assistance programs in order to support developing countries to enhance intellectual property rights.

The EU also engages in protecting EU creations, inventions and designs.

For help designing strategies and operations to protect the value of your ideas and creations, the EU Report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights offers information to companies, in particular small businesses, on potential risks to their IP when engaging in business activities in or with certain countries abroad.

Technology transfer

The EU – including its member states – works to promote technology transfer, particularly to least-developed countries (LDCs). 

  • the EU believes that policies made to develop a strong IPR regime can help developing countries gain the benefits of more access to foreign technology
  • foreign companies will be more likely to license knowledge and collaborate on common projects if there is an effective IPR system in a country

Find useful information for businesses on technology transfer and IP matters.

EU policy towards access to medicines

The EU works to facilitate access to medicines in developing countries.It aims to strike the right balance between protecting the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies which lead the research into new medicines and the need to ensure that these medicines are available for people around the world. Therefore, the EU adapts its approach on drugs-related IP rights to the needs and development level of its trading partners.

The EU addresses various issues relating to the affordability, availability, accessibility, acceptability, quality and use of medicines in low- and middle-income countries by supporting

  • global health organisations and initiatives
  • low- and middle-income countries’ public health systems
  • research and development (R&D) of medicines needed by low- and middle-income countries
  • trade rules facilitating access to medicines

Find more information on EU global health actions for low- and middle-income countries.

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