Jessen is the Head of Unit for Public Procurement and Intellectual Property at DG Trade, the section of the European Commission that handles all of the EU’s international trade issues. He has only been in the role for two years, having previously worked on internal resources at DG Trade, but says he finds the area “absolutely fascinating”: “It touches on so many areas, from counterfeits to online piracy, pharmaceuticals to geographical indications.
It is the latter that has proved the biggest sticking point in trade negotiations with developed countries, such as the US/EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is still in its early stages. All 27 EU Member States and US Congress must give approval before negotiations of the trade deal can officially begin—which should hopefully happen by mid-June.
This is a delicate stage of the process. “All the Member States will have priorities of things they would like to be included in the agreement, and you have to decide how much of an indication you need from them at this early stage,” says Jessen. “Of course as a negotiator you want the greatest room for maneuver, but some guidance is also necessary to make sure you’re reflecting the will of the States.”
The IP chapter of the US/EU deal will not be as controversial as it is in agreements with developing countries—such as that between the EU and India—but there will still be substantive points. “It is no secret that we would like to discuss geographical indications with the US,” says Jessen. “They have historically been rather less enthusiastic about GIs, so we want to talk about them and we’ll see where we end up.”
The other controversial point is regulation of the Internet. “One thing we definitely don’t want is a repeat of ACTA,” says Jessen. The anti-counterfeiting agreement was voted down by the European Parliament last year followed mass street protests across the EU. “The problem in part with ACTA was that the wording of the controversial sections—on copyright and the Internet—was too broad. The US and the EU have different regulations in this area and they did not want to modify their standard language. That led to broad wording that could be interpreted in several different ways.”
“In the end, neither the US nor the EU have major issues with enforcement, so getting into this area might be more trouble than it’s worth.” The EU/Korea Free Trade Agreement, which was finalised in 2011, included sections on online enforcement but more closely followed existing EU legislation, and did not cause as many problems. A similar deal with Canada, which hasn’t been concluded yet, also takes a similar line.
“Some in the European Parliament have said that there should be no language on enforcement in future trade deals, and even others that ACTA means there should be no IP element at all. We want to avoid that,” says Jessen.
Among other ongoing trade agreements, the EU is negotiating with India, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. The former is “at crunch point,” with a general approval from both governments being needed before the summer—as after that India goes into election season. This number of bilateral negotiations has become the norm since the Doha round of multilateral trade talks has been “in the doldrums,” says Jessen.
Jessen is at INTA to talk to attendees, to make sure “what we are talking about reflects people’s real concerns.” So if you see him around, do make your feelings known.
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