Brexit was one of the most high-profile separations history has ever witnessed, the UK Competition and Markets Authority issued advice to the British Government on the new pro-competition regime for the digital and tech enterprises. In the UK, the digital sector contributed to nearly €170 billion in 2018, with astonishing growth which has surpassed most sectors. Earlier in 2020, the UK Government commissioned the Digital Markets Taskforce, led by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to make recommendations on the creation of a regulatory framework for the ever-growing digital markets in light of BREXIT. Subsequently, the CMA published a market study on online platforms and digital advertising including several recommendations to address competition concerns that had been identified.
The new rules will apply to businesses and enterprises which are considered to have a considerable impact on the digital scene. CMA stated that it considered companies such as Google and Facebook to be highly likely to be designated as having strategic market status in online advertising. It transpires that from the approx. €15 billion spent on digital advertising in the UK in 2019, a substantial 80% was spent on Google and Facebook.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority Recommendations
1. The CMA suggested the enactment of a Digital Markets Unit (DMU) to enforce a Code of Conduct for the major stakeholders. The DMU would be focused on pro-actively regulating the evolving digital markets to prevent harm and shape markets in a way to deliver greater competition and innovation.
2. Also, the creation of a new pro-competition framework was advised, to incorporate the main elements:
- a legally binding Code of Conduct for businesses that are designated as having SMS,
- a pre-emptive intervention targeting SMS businesses, and
- the setting up of SMS merger rules, which impose a responsibility to report transactions to the CMA.
3. The Authority has suggested that the new Code of Conduct should be binding that the DMU is to ensure conformity, with the possibility of incurring costs for non-compliance.
4. Strengthening consumer protection laws, to ensure that they cater to scenarios brought about by the digital age.Read More
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are 99% of the European Economy, which represent over 67% of the total employment in Europe. Intellectual property rights are vital when trying to attract the attention of potential consumers. Unfortunately, SMEs were among the many sectors that were negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic from a competitive perspective.
The European Commission, in collaboration with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), put forward a recovery plan for SMEs and will be launching a significant number of initiatives for SMEs intending to mitigate the damage the pandemic might have caused to their businesses. The recovery action plan for European SMEs includes benefits such as making IP services more accessible for smaller businesses and encouraging SMEs to increase their competitiveness through better use and protection of intellectual property rights.
One of the initiatives that will be offered by the EUIPO would be a 50% reimbursement of the application fee incurred by SMEs when applying for a trademark or design protection at a national, regional or all European level. Such an application can be processed by any national European IP office.
Trademark and Design Applications
There will be no limitations as to the number of trademarks or design applications that an SME can apply for, however, the SME will be reimbursed 50% of the basic application fees up to a maximum of €1,500. Reimbursement would only be possible if the trademark or design in question is listed in the grant application form. After applying for the grant, the SME is presented with a grant decision. If the decision is positive, the SME will have a period of 30 days to apply for the service required, and it is after this stage that the SME would be able to apply for the reimbursement.
Additionally, the EIPO will financially aid SMEs through an “SME Fund” of 20 million Euro to financially support European SMEs that wish to protect their Trademarks and Designed. Free consultations as to how one might improve or protect his/her SME’s trademark or design will be offered by attorneys working within the EIPO, as well as free dispute settlement consultations, to reach an amicable settlement for both parties and avoid taking the issue to court. The consultation services are currently only being offered in 8 European countries, with Malta not cutting, however, the list of countries will be extended over the coming months.
SMEs would have the option of either applying for one grant per service, or to apply for a mixture of both grants for the same service, without exceeding the total cost of €1,500. The latter option would only be available locally once Malta is added to the list of countries offering the grant.
One would be able to benefit from such a fund during the current year (2021) after meeting a pre-defined set of principles and criteria. Applications for the grant are open during 5 different time windows which are between the 11th-31st of January 2021, the 1st-31st of March 2021, 1st-31st of May 2021, 1st-31st of July 2021 and 1st-31st of September 2021.Read More