The European Commission has recently published the results of its consultation on the Database Directive (96/9/EC). It essentially concludes that the directive remains fit for purpose and there is no immediate need for change.
In 2017, the Commission embarked upon a consultation process to assess whether the Database Directive still fulfills its policy goals and is fit-for-purpose in a digital, data-driven economy. This is the second time there has been a significant evaluation of the directive since its adoption in February 1996.
The Commission's key conclusions are as follows:
- The directive has been quite effective in harmonising database protection across the EU, although the sui generis right has no proven impact on the overall production of databases in Europe, or on the competitiveness of the EU database industry.
- The directive was efficient; the sui generis right has moderate costs and benefits, but the benefits seem higher.
- Reforming the sui generis right now would be largely disproportionate to its overall policy potential or the limited range of problems it currently generates - it remains valued by many stakeholders. A stronger case will need to be built before there is any move towards a change in policy.
The results of this consultation provide certainty, for the time being at least, that the Database Directive is to remain in its current form (although not everyone will be happy with this conclusion).
Meanwhile, some uncertainty remains as to what will happen to the sui generis right in the context of Brexit. The Commission has said that it wants to negotiate a form of reciprocal treatment and this is reflected in the current draft of the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to existing databases (Article 54), however questions remain, such as the qualification requirements and the scope of protection for "new" databases. We will continue to keep you posted on developments as they unfold. (For further recent information on Brexit and IP rights, see our blogs here and here.)