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Speech by Executive Vice-President Vestager at the Press Conference on the Data Governance Act and the Action Plan on Intellectual Property

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 25 november 2020.

Today, we are presenting two proposals: the Data Governance Act and the action plan on intellectual property.

The Data Governance Act is an important milestone to boost a data-driven economy in Europe, and the first deliverable following our data strategy, adopted in February this year.

It is about creating the right conditions so that if people want to share data, they can do so in a trustful way. So it is not about having to share data.

Every day, huge amounts of data are created, and many of these are non-personal - or “industrial” data. Those are road traffic data coming from GPS, healthcare data enabling better and faster diagnosis, it is data tracking our heat use through smart sensors in our households. In the years to come, the amount of data will grow exponentially. Data can enable new services and products, make production more efficient and contribute to improve better services in many different areas. But today only very little of the available data is put to productive use.

With this potential in mind, it is obvious that data should be accessible and that the sharing of such data should be both secure and respect our fundamental values.

The Data Governance Act will create a solid foundation for our future data-related initiatives, in particular the creation of intermediaries, or sector-specific data spaces. Those spaces will be created to facilitate the sharing of data within a given sector. These obvious examples would be mobility, health, energy and agriculture.

With common regulation across the European Union, this initiative will ensure that companies can benefit from the scale of the single market and that companies and research organisations, they will be able to access data from different Member States under similar conditions. In fact, the online consultation that we have conducted to prepare this proposal showed us that it is indeed the lack of common tools - not the willingness - that puts a limit to data sharing.

The Data Governance Act does not oblige anyone to share data. What it does is that it facilitates data sharing. It provides legal clarity and a trustworthy environment for those who are willing to share data - whether they are public bodies, private companies, or citizens.

The Data Governance Act covers three distinct elements.

First, for data held by public bodies, we want to enable the possibility to tap into those data that are currently not shared because they are sensitive. They are sensitive because they concern someone's rights. Those rights could for instance be on Intellectual Property rights, commercial confidentiality or privacy. With this new rules, such data can now be shared. They can be made available for reuse because their level of legitimate protection will be maintained, even if they travel to another country.

Second, to facilitate data sharing we are creating principles for trustworthy intermediaries that will provide the basic infrastructure for data sharing in data spaces. The principle behind the intermediaries is to boost voluntary data sharing whilst preserving control over the data by companies and households. This will only work if those intermediaries, are fully trusted. Several caveats will ensure this trust.

To start with, intermediaries are required to notify to the competent public authority their intention of providing data-sharing services. They will ensure the protection of sensitive and confidential data. And they will have to comply with strict requirements to ensure their own neutrality. In practice, this means that data intermediaries will function as neutral third party that connect data holders and data users.

The framework offers an alternative model to the current data-handling practices offered by Big Tech platforms. Public bodies and companies will only be ready to share data if they are certain that their data will not be used by data sharing service providers for any other purposes than the ones they have actually and specifically agreed on. This is all about providing a safe environment for those willing to share data.

The third element of the Data Governance Act is that those principles also apply to us as individuals whenever we wish to share our own personal data, or if we want to donate them to serve a general interest. For instance, people suffering from rare diseases may voluntarily share the results of their medical tests to be used to improve treatments for those diseases. New so-called personal data spaces will ensure that people can keep control over their own data. The personal data spaces will also ensure that they are only used for purposes agreed to, in this case for medical research.

This new regulation will therefore provide a governance framework that will ensure that data can be made available voluntarily by data holders and support common European data spaces. It will allow businesses, small and big, to benefit from easier access to data and from reduction both costs and time in acquiring data.

A frictionless single market for data is also a market where people can have their Intellectual Property rights recognised and protected. So today, we also present the Intellectual Property action plan.

It builds on the strengths of the European intellectual property framework and it puts forward a number of concrete actions to help companies make the most of their inventions and creations.

As only 9% of small and medium sized companies file for protection of intellectual property, the Commission, together with the European Intellectual Property Office, offers a new financial assistance scheme. So that Intellectual Property assistance services can be provided for small and medium sized businesses, who participate in the Horizon Europe programme.

In addition, it is essential to have stable, efficient and fair rules governing the licensing of Standard-essential patents. These patents play a crucial role in the development of 5G and a wide range of connected products, from connected cars, to health sensors, to energy sensors in smart cities.

In the short term, the Commission will facilitate industry-led initiatives to reduce frictions and litigations among players in specific sectors. In parallel, reform to improve the framework in place for standard-essential patents. For instance, the Commission will explore setting up an independent system of third-party essentiality checks in view of improving legal certainty and reducing litigation costs.

The protection of intellectual property rights are therefore an important part of the industrial strategy and support the twin transition and economic recovery.

To conclude, our two new proposals - the Governance Act and the action plan - they are about creating hands-on conditions to encourage public bodies, companies and people to take action, use their rights and to share their data. Greater use of data that can be an engine for innovation, growth and economic development. It can provide answers to tackle major societal challenges such as climate change, health or mobility.

Thierry and I had an excellent cooperation; he will now talk you through the details.


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