Tag Archives: intellectual property

Copyright European Legislation: Getting Ready for the Digital Era.

On September 12th the European Parliament approved amendments to the controversial Proposal for a Copyright Directive, the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which aims at updating copyright rules.

Not many topics have polarized opinions in recent years in Europe. While supporters claim to have protected artists and to have inflicted a blow to the American tech giants, critics have talked about the “death of the internet”.

For clarity, even if the Directive passed the European Parliament vote, the changes are not yet definitive and it may be too early to conclude on what this decision entails. The Directive text shall be further reviewed in subsequent negotiations and there is still a slight chance that it may be rejected at another vote by the European Parliament in 2019. In addition, the Directive, even if (and when) definitely approved, should be implemented by single Member States.

But which results does the Directive aim to achieve?

Its scope and purpose appear based on the evolution of digital technologies, which has changed the way copyright works and other protected material are created, produced, distributed and exploited, with the consequence that new uses, new payers and new business models have emerged. The digital environment has given birth to new opportunities for customers to access copyright-protected content. In this new framework, right-holders face difficulties to be remunerated for the online distribution of their works. So, even if the objectives and principles laid down by the EU copyright framework remain valid, there is an undeniable need to adapt them to the new reality.

The Directive also intends to avoid the risk of fragmentation of rules in the internal market. In fact, the Digital Single Market Strategy1 adopted in May 2015 identified the need «to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU». The idea expressed in the 2015 by the European Commission was to «move towards a modern, more European copyright framework». The EU legislation purports to harmonize exceptions and limitations to copyright and connected rights, however some of these exceptions, which aim at achieving public policy objectives, such as research or education, remain regulated on national level, with the consequence that legal certainty around cross-border uses is not guaranteed.

As to the content of the Directive, we note the following points:

  • With specific regard to the scientific research, recital number 9 of the Directive says that the Union has already provided certain exceptions and limitations (even if optional and not fully adapted to the use of technology in the scientific research) covering uses for scientific research purposes which may apply to acts of text and data mining. Where researcher have lawful access to content, for example through subscription to publication or open access licenses, the term of the licenses may exclude text and data mining.
  • Article 11, called “link tax”, gives publishers a right to ask for paid licenses when online platforms share their stories. The amended version clarifies that this new rights «shall not prevent legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users». The amendment tries also to clarify what can be considered as “sharing a story”, indicating that the mere hyperlinks cannot be taxed, nor can individual words.
  • Article 13, called by the critics as “upload filter”, sets forth that platforms storing and giving access to large amounts of works uploaded by their users shall conclude licensing agreements that include liability for copyright infringement, thus putting a large responsibility on platforms and copyright holders that must «cooperate in good faith» to stop this infringement by carefully monitoring every upload.

The Directive has been designed with the intent to rebalance the core problem of contemporary web: big platforms like Facebook and Google are making huge amounts of money providing access to material made by other people. Nevertheless critics object that this intent could lead to serious collateral effects.

We will see what the future of this Directive will be, and which consequences will entail. The path seems to be still long, but, at least, it has started.

 

Tax Relief on Exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights and Know-How

INTRODUCTION OF THE SO CALLED “IP BOX”. Law no. 190 of December 23, 2014 (“Law”), provides for a new regulatory framework concerning taxation of revenue arising from exploitation of intellectual property rights and know-how eligible for legal protection.

Starting from 2015, repatriation of intangible assets owned by Italian and foreign companies abroad will be favored. Exportation or re-exportation of intangible assets to countries having more favorable taxation of revenue arising from exploitation of intellectual property rights will likely decrease, whereas investments in R&D activities in Italy should increase.

SCOPE OF THE LAW. The Law expressly covers works of intellect, patents, trademarks, design, models, processes, formulas, as well as industrial, commercial, and scientific know-how eligible for legal protection[1]. Revenue arising from both direct and indirect exploitation will receive a more favorable taxation as profits from licensing of eligible assets as well as their direct use (e.g. use of patented machineries in manufacturing processes) will be partially excluded from companies’ taxable income. The Law provides for a progressive implementation of the tax relief system. In 2015, only 30% of the profits will be excluded, whereas such percentage will increase to 40% in 2016, and to 50% in 2017[2].

Capital gains arising from sale of eligible intangible assets will be entirely tax-exempt, upon condition that at least 90% of sales revenue are invested, within two years from the relevant sale, in maintenance or development of any of such assets.

It must be noted that the tax relief will not automatically apply to all eligible entities. Instead, companies must expressly opt for the regime, and their choice will be binding and irrevocable for the following five fiscal years.

WHO CAN BENEFIT. Entities carrying out business activity in Italy, regardless of their type or size, can benefit from the new taxation regime. Foreign companies and other incorporated or non-incorporated entities, including trusts, carrying out business activity in Italy through a permanent establishment, can also benefit from the newly introduced regulatory framework provided that their country of residency is a party to a double tax treaty and undertakes to exchange relevant information with Italy.

CONDITIONS. The exclusion of profits from corporate income will apply only to those entities that carry out R&D activities by way of contracts entered into with either universities or equivalent research entities, or with companies other than those belonging to the same group[3].

In case of direct exploitation of eligible intangible assets, companies must conclude an advanced pricing agreement (APA) with the Agenzia delle Entrate (the Italian tax agency) to determine the ratio between the production value of the assets and the corporate income[4]. Such an agreement is optional for revenue arising from exploitation of eligible assets within the same group[5], whereas it is mandatory in case of capital gains deriving from sale of the assets.

EXEMPTED INCOME. Not all of corporate income benefits from the tax relief. The benefitting quota is instead calculated on the basis of the ratio between R&D costs incurred for maintenance and development[6] of eligible intangible assets and overall costs borne to produce such assets.

[1] The Law originally provided for works of intellect, patents, trademarks that are functionally equivalent to patents, processes, formulas and know-how eligible for legal protection. The meaning of “trademarks functionally equivalent to patents” has been debated ever since, with experts stating that such trademarks could be indentified in those trademarks used to market patented inventions. The recent Law Decree no. 3 of January 24th, 2015 (currently still to be converted into law) expanded the scope of the Law to all kind of trademarks, therefore also to purely commercial trademarks, as well as to design and models.

It must be noted that the scope of the Law is wider than what provided in other European countries by similar tax regimes, where tax relief is usually limited to exploitation of patents. Such systems are therefore commonly defined as “Patent Box”.

[2] The exemption is relevant to calculation of both IRES (corporate income tax) and IRAP (regional tax on production). It is estimated that, starting from 2017, revenue arising from exploitation of eligible assets will be taxed at a rate of 13.75%.

[3] The provision is aligned with the “nexus approach” adopted by OECD, aiming at limiting harmful tax competition amongst OECD countries. According to such an approach, tax relief is to be granted only when R&D costs are incurred, therefore hindering companies from exporting intangible assets to countries with more favorable tax rates without carrying out any R&D activity in such countries. (For further information on this issue visit http://www.oecd.org/ctp/beps-2014-deliverables.htm)

[4] The agreement is reached upon an international ruling procedure that is usually applied with regards to transfer pricing and dividends within the context of multinational companies.

[5] The Law originally provided for a mandatory agreement also in case of exploitation within the same group. Law Decree no. 3 of January 24, 2015, made such an agreement optional. Please note that the agreement may remain mandatory if the law decree is not converted into law or if it is modified by the law of conversion.

[6] Law Decree no. 3 of January 24, 2015, provides that such costs are increased by those incurred for the purchase of the asset or for research contracts entered into with companies belonging to the same group up to 30% of maintenance and development costs.