Category Archives: Economy  & industrial sectors

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2016: New year, new trademark system

We are set to witness a substantial trademark legislation reform in 2016. The EU Commission, the Council and the European Parliament are at a very advanced stage with their preparatory work in this area. If adopted, it will be the most significant trademark reform since the complete harmonization of national trademark systems and the introduction of a community trademark in the 90s.

The draft reform includes a new Trademark Directive to be implemented by Member States in the medium term, as well as a new Community Trademark Regulation, which would become applicable in the short term once adopted.

Among the most relevant modifications envisaged by the new regulatory package, we highlight the following:

  • Symbolically, the Community Trademark will be redubbed “European Union Trademark”. The OHIM will be redubbed European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
  • The legal requirement for trademarks to be graphically represented will disappear, opening the gates for new forms of non-traditional trademarks.
  • The harmonization of national trademark systems will be consolidated. Member States will need to incorporate administrative proceedings for trademark cancellation in their respective national Offices. In Spain, the competence for trademark cancellation is currently attributed to Courts and Tribunals. Thus, the reform will reduce the cost of litigation to cancel trademarks.
  • The fees relating to Community Trademarks will be modified. Currently, a basic fee includes up to 3 classes of products and services. This system is inefficient in most cases, where applicants are only interested in registering trademarks for one or two classes of products and services. With the reform, we expect that each class of product or service will be paid separately. This is already the case for internal Spanish trademarks.
  • Renewal fees are substantially reduced.
  • The system of product and service designation will be modified as a result of the IP Translator case and the consequent modification of the class heading system.

To sum up, the reform is significant but not groundbreaking. The new regulatory system will seek to adapt and improve certain aspects that have proven inefficient or improvable over many years. We hope the work of the EU institutions will proceed as expected and will keep you informed as soon as the reform is adopted.

Stay tuned!

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How Intellectual Property Impacts Your Business

The European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights and the European Patent Office have carried out studies on the contribution of the main intellectual property rights (IPR) to the economy in the European Union. The purpose of these studies is to provide evidence about the value of intellectual property (IP). The impact of the IP has been assessed in two different studies.

The first study, released on September 2013, analyzed the main IPR intensive industries and their contribution to the economic performance and employment in the European Union. The results indicated that about 35 % of jobs in the European Union rely on IPR intensive industries, approximately 26 % of all jobs in the EU are provided directly by these industries and 9 % of all employment in the EU comes directly from them. Furthermore, the study revealed that about 39 % of total economic activity in the EU is generated by IPR intensive industries.

The latest study, released on June 2015, deals with an economic analysis of the main IPR and the firm’s performance in Europe. The new study has found out that European companies owning IPR achieve better economic performance than their competitors not owning IPR. The report shows descriptive statistics which exhibit the differences between companies owning and not owning IPR. The results of the analysis clearly demonstrate that the ownership of, specifically, patents, trademarks and designs, is strongly associated with improved economic performance at the level of the individual company.

Among other interesting patterns, the results show that the revenue per employee for owners of IPR is 28.6 % higher than for firms not owning IPR. This revenue is largest for companies owning designs at 31.4 %, followed by trademark owners and patent owners. This relationship between IPR and revenue per employee is even stronger for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). For instance, when taking into consideration all firms subject to the study, the revenue for employee for firms owning IPR is 28 %. However, with respect to SMEs, this positive relationship reaches 32 %. Nevertheless, the statistics show that SMEs do not seem to be aware of how beneficial it is to own IPR since only 9.1 % of SMEs own designs, trademarks or patents.

Besides, IPR owners employ almost 6 times as many employees as companies not owning IPR and the salaries on companies owning IPR are almost 20 % higher than by firms that do not own IPR. The highest salary corresponds to patent owners at 40.6 %, followed by designs at 23.0 % and trademarks at 18.8 %.

In conclusion, these studies clearly present the positive impact of IP in the economy of the European Union. Now, with the results of these studies, the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights and the European Patent Office aim to raise awareness among European citizens about the value of intellectual property.

photo credit a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotos29225114@N083096220768Sergei Golysheva via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc2.0cca.pdf

THE CHALLENGES OF THE BIOTECHNOLOGY SECTOR IN SPAIN

The biotechnology sector in Spain has experienced an immense development in the past decade, already being the world ninth and European fifth ranked country in scientific production. In 2012 it had an impact on the Spanish GDP of 7,8 % (last known data according to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics – INE- ). Keeping in mind that this indicator did not surpass a 3% of the Spanish GDP in 2008, we can then establish the fast development of this sector, and how Spanish companies are increasingly relying on biotechnology use as a means to innovate and grow in their respective markets.

Other statistics also prove this development, according to the Annual Report of ASEBIO (Spanish Association of Biotechnology Companies)[1]: the employment rate has grown, creating almost 800 new jobs in 2012, the number of companies that declare to perform biotechnology activities has risen to more than 3.000 and the turnover has reached an annual 80.000 million euro. Finally, another note that shows the importance of the sector in Spain is that 2014 has been declared as the “Biotechnology Year in Spain”.

Catalonia is the region where most biotechnology companies are, concentrating almost 20% of all Spanish biotechnology companies, followed by Andalusia (with almost 15%) and the Madrid Community (with 13%). The Autonomous Community has traditionally been the headquarters of numerous biotechnology companies: for example, 50% of all Spanish pharmaceutical companies are located here, including the five biggest companies, including Almirall, Esteve and Ferrer Internacional. Catalonia also leads the statistics on number of newly created companies, followed by Andalusia and Galicia, fast becoming one of the most strategically important regions in the biotechnology sector in Europe.

There are several reasons why Catalonia has become the biotechnology leader region in Spain and one of the most important in Europe, alongside BioTOP in Berlin, One Nucleus in Cambridge (London) or Medicen Paris Region, among others. It has 56 investigation centers with a biotechnology activity, 17 university hospitals, two big infrastructure centers (Barcelona Supercomputing Center[2] and Sincotrón ALBA-CELLS[3]), as well as 12 technology centres and 16 scientific and technology parks, which have greatly favored the setup of new companies and the attraction of investment.

The scientific and technology parks located in Catalonia have been a key factor in the development of the sector and the creation of new companies, as their mission has been to facilitate the step from R+D groups and departments to startups. They also offer common use facilities, which mean an important saving on the initial investment necessary to create a new biotechnology company. The possibility of interaction and synergies between startups, technology centers, big companies and R+D facilities have created a perfect space where to establish new companies and develop as a competitive business.

As a consequence, and if we take a look at the number of funds granted by the European Research Council[4], Catalonia is the destination of more than half of those collected by Spain and it is where more than 29% of the funds bestowed to Spain by the European Seventh Framework Programme[5] are located. Catalonia has also attracted specialized investors, including corporate funds (which right now amount to more than 136 million euro in resources) and investment banking, as well as venture capital funds. Between 2009 and 2013 the venture capital investment has multiplied by five, being one of the most recent examples the venture capital company “Caixa Innvierte BioMed II”, created by the Spanish financial entity “La Caixa” in partnership with the Spanish Economy and Competiveness Ministry and the Catalonian Financial Institute, and which will invest 35 million euro in developing biomedical companies.

However, the access to investment funding continues to be the biggest challenge that the Spanish biotechnology sector has to face in order to continue growing and being competitive within the European market. Much of the startups and small and medium companies that focus their activities in biotechnological R+D depend on public funding to subsist and this has dramatically decreased in the last few years due to the economic crisis: the resources and funding of the Spanish Industrial Technological Development Center (CDTI)[6] and of the Agency of Competitiveness for Companies in Catalonia (ACCIÓ)[7] have decreased more than 50% since 2012.

Another challenge of biotechnology companies is not only the adequate protection of their research results through patents (in 2012 more than 700 patent applications were published and only 294 were authorized), but also the necessity of continuing research and a reformulation of the business models once the patents have expired.

The biotechnology regulatory framework is also a barrier for companies that want to start manufacturing and commercialising the products resulting from their research. The Spanish Medicines Agency and Sanitary Products (AEMPS) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are the competent entities in charge of the approval of clinical research, manufacture and commercialisation of cosmetics, medical and sanitary products, while the Spanish Agency for Food Security and Nutrition (AESAN) and the European Food Security Authority (EFSA) are the competent authorities for the authorization of manufacture and commercialisation of functional foods and products which contain genetically modified organisms. All of these institutions require expensive clinical essays as well as bureaucratic procedures that are a hindrance for many small and medium companies due to their costs.

The last two challenges mentioned revert back to the first one mentioned: the difficulty of accessing public and private funds to develop the business is seriously affecting the sector. Therefore, and now that it seems that the worst of the economic crisis is over, it is time for the Administration to address the problem and again gradually increase the public funds destined to R+D and scientific innovation: with only a few exceptions of companies with a turnover of more than 100 million euro, such as Grifols or Almirall, the vast majority of the Spanish biotechnology businesses are small and medium companies that greatly depend on private or public funding for their subsistence and growth.

Last but not least, it is highly necessary to value and commercialise R+D and innovative investigation in order to encourage private investment, promoting a closer collaboration between the public and private sector. The number and funding of universities and public research centres with biotechnological projects has to increase and a sustained commitment by the Government of R+D is imperative if we want to remain competitive, now that the emerging countries such as China or Brazil are slowly becoming firm competitors in the worldwide market. The creation of more public and private entities would without doubt attract private investment, being able in this way to compete with our worldwide equals.

[1] Annual Report of ASEBIO (Spanish Association of Biotechnology Companies) 2013 (www.asebio.com)

[2] Barcelona Supercomputing Center:  www.bsc.es

[3] Sincotrón ALBA-CELLS: www.cells.es

[4] European Research Council (http://erc.europa.eu/)

[5] Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for Research, technological development and demonstration activities: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/energy/european_energy_policy/i23022_en.htm

[6] The Industrial Technological Development Center (CDTI) is a public company dependent on the Spanish Economic and Competiveness Ministry, which promotes the innovation and technological development of Spanish companies (www.cdti.es).

[7] Agency of Competitiveness for Companies in Catalonia (ACCIÓ): http://accio.gencat.cat/

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WOMEN IN POWER (II)

Red Eléctrica Española, Acciona, FCC, CaixaBank, Inditex or Viscofan are the listed Spanish companies with the most gender-balanced boards of directors based on the gender profile of their members

Spain: new measures, but are these enough?

As we already mentioned in our previous post, the measures contained in the Draft Law relating to corporate governance of corporate enterprises refer exclusively to commercial undertakings listed on the Spanish secondary stock market and provides that a commission set the goal of representation for the underrepresented sex,  in addition to facilitating the appointment of women in the  selection processes for directors.

In 2013, 79.5% of women directors of IBEX-35 companies were independent directors, another 16.4% were consejeras dominicales (directors representing shareholders with substantial shareholdings) and only 4.1% were executive directors, in companies such as Banco Santander, Telefónica, Arcelor and Bankinter. There were also two Chairwomen of the Board: in Dia and FCC.

We cannot deny that in Spain gender quotas on corporate boards are an example of the catalyst effect that the adoption of legislative measures can have. We have to recall that  Organic Law 3/2007 of 22 March 2007 for Effective Equality of Women and Men included a recommendation  that companies (and not just listed ones)  include in  their  boards of directors a number of women that would  permit balanced representation of gender,  leading to a sharp increase  in the presence of female directors in Spanish listed companies (from 3.30%  in 2005  to 17.23% in 2013).

On the other hand, the Unified Good Governance Code, published in 2006 by the National Securities Market Commission (in Spanish “CNMV”) contains other recommendations: in the event that there are no directors or that a limited number are appointed, the Board shall state the reasons for, as well as the initiatives adopted to correct this situation. In addition, the appointments committee must ensure that when filling new vacancies, selection policies involving positive discrimination in favor of women are adhered to.

But what lies behind these equality policies? Do they only seek social justice between genders? Many studies conclude that greater gender parity undoubtedly leads to improved performance by businesses: not only because more women in the corporate governance of companies implies the proper management of diversity, but also because of better quality in decision making, the existence of more innovation, a better knowledge of the market or identification with customers, as well as greater use of European talent (let us not forget that 60% of European students are women).

We therefore welcome the fact that with  the Draft Law this matter will be  incorporated directly into the Spanish Corporate Enterprises Act, and subsequently integrated into the Commercial Code, although it is likely that it  may remain a mere statement of good political intentions. This will certainly help, but it will be insufficient   if the threshold of 40% female presence on boards of directors by 2020 – the target earmarked by proposed European legislation – is to be reached.  Clearer mandatory rules, including deadlines and administrative or financial penalties, would have been preferable.  As things are, the fate of female board directors is sealed… though perhaps it can still be modified in the parliamentary debate.