Intellectual property rights (IPR) have become the cornerstone of the EU economy, accounting for 40 percent of its economic activity and a third of its employment, a joint study by the European Patent Office and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) has concluded.
Looking at sectors that make particularly intensive use of IPR - trademarks, patents, designs, copyright - the study found that these industries had contributed a quarter of the jobs created in the EU between 2008 and 2010. Including indirect employment, this now accounted for 77 million of the EU's workforce out of a total of 218 million.
Overall, 20.8 percent of the employment was in trademark-oriented businesses, ahead of design at 12.2 percent, patents at 10.3 percent and copyrights at 3.2 percent.
These industries also paid higher wages, around a 40 percent premium compared to sectors depending less or not at all on IPR, the report said.
"I am convinced that intellectual property rights play a hugely important role in stimulating innovation and creativity, and I welcome the publication of this study," commented Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier.
"What this study shows us is that the use of intellectual property rights in the economy is ubiquitous: from high-tech industries to manufacturers of sports goods, games, toys and computer games, all are making intensive use of not just one, but often several types of IP rights."
Industries making extensive use of IPR included some obvious ones such as engineering and computing, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, but also real estate, insurance, and financial services. These now accounted for 90 percent of trade with countries outside the EU.
"This study tackles the fundamental question of the extent to which IPR-related industries matter to jobs, GDP and trade in the EU. We now have a clear answer. They do matter, they matter a lot," said OHIM president, Antnio Campinos.
The study's methodology noted its debt to a similar study carried out in 2012 by the Economics and Statistics Administration in the US Department of Commerce and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This came to an identical conclusion; IPR is important.
Last year the EU agreed a patent regime that will come into force in on 2014 or 2015 depending on how quickly each country ratifies it. Although undoubtedly more efficient, critics have reservations, fearing a transfer of US-style patent trolls attracted by the ability to enforce claims across multiple states.
Last week a clutch of big tech companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, HP, Intel, and Apple - sent a letter to the European Commission and Parliament expressing polite concern about the possibility of trolls shifting litigation attention to the continent.