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Lisbon Treaty could strengthen EU powers in IP and data protection

The European Union has strengthened its powers to change intellectual property and data protection laws in future, according to one EU law expert. The structure of the European Union changed today when the Lisbon Treaty came into force.01 Dec 2009

The Treaty is the replacement for a rejected EU constitution and it amends the other treaties on which the EU is founded. Its governmental changes, such as the creation of an EU Council presidency and a foreign minister role for the EU Commission, have proved controversial. But one EU law specialist has said that the changes could affect other areas crucial to business.

"The Lisbon Treaty provides a more secure legislative platform for the EU to legislate on areas such as energy and intellectual property, potentially widening the scope of existing forms of legislative intervention," said Adrian Wood of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "Lisbon also offers the potential for greater legislative involvement in the field of data protection through Article 16(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)."

The TFEU is the new name given to the EC Treaty, which was the founding document of the EU trading bloc.

Article 16(2) of the Treaty says: "The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall lay down the rules relating to the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and by the Member States when carrying out activities which fall within the scope of Union law, and the rules relating to the free movement of such data. Compliance with these rules shall be subject to the control of independent authorities".

The Lisbon Treaty also made slight changes to the EU court structure.

Europe's top court the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will now be called the Court of Justice. Its lower court, the Court of First Instance (CFI), will be called the General Court. The term 'The Court of Justice of the European Union' is the collective name for those two courts and any specialist Judicial Panels that are created. The only current panel is the EU Civil Service Panel.

"The Treaty of Lisbon puts citizens at the centre of the European project," said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. "I'm delighted that we now have the right institutions to act and a period of stability, so that we can focus all our energy on delivering what matters to our citizens."

"The Treaty of Lisbon will ensure European citizens have their say in European affairs and see their fundamental rights set out in a charter," said a Commission statement. "The EU will be better equipped to meet expectations in the fields of energy, climate change, cross-border crime and immigration."

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