If your business is involved in licensing-in or licensing-out technology or other intellectual property rights, you will be aware of the need to bear in mind European Community laws which can effect such transactions, as agreements which have the potential to effect trade within Europe.
The easiest way to avoid such problems is to ensure that the proposed agreement only contains terms that are acceptable under the ‘block exemption’ that related to the type of agreement in question. Compliance with a block exemption allows parties safely to enter into an agreement that might otherwise need to be notified to the Commission for individual exemption.
There is a block exemption that covers licensing but unfortunately it only deals with patent and know-how licences. In addition it is considered to impose restrictions that do not seem to be economically justified. The Commission appears to have recognised this and is looking to rationalise the block exemption coverage in this area.
The main proposed changes are as follows:
- Extending the application of the exemption from patent and know-how licensing agreements only to those dealing with other intellectual property rights such as trade marks, copyrights and designs;
- Extending the exemption to licensing pools, a common route for the commercialisation of new technologies;
- Adopting a more lenient approach towards licensing agreements between non-competitors whilst keeping a close watch on arrangements between competitors taking into account their market power and the structure of the relevant market.