On 1 March 2022, the European Commission (“Commission”) published drafts of the revised Research & Development Block Exemption Regulation (“R&D BER”) and Specialization Block Exemption Regulation (“Specialisation BER”, together the “Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations” or “HBERs”) as well as the accompanying Horizontal Guidelines for stakeholder comments. The current HBERs are due to expire on 31 December 2022.
The HBERs set out how competitors can work together on projects and enter into horizontal agreements without breaching collusion-related prohibitions. During the Commission’s evaluation of the current HBER rules and horizontal guidelines, the Commission identified a number of areas for improvement, including the need to update the rules in line with the Commission’s policies on digitalization and sustainability (see our previous blog post here).
Three things for you to know about the recent amendments to the HBERs:
- There is a strong focus on sustainability, and how sustainability agreements may comply with EU competition law, which provides greater scope for companies to enter into sustainability agreements (which is detailed in this blog post).
- Data sharing and information exchange is at the forefront of the HBER update, with additional guidance on identifying and sharing commercially sensitive information and the use of algorithms.
- The competition rules for research and development agreements and specialisation agreements have been explained and clarified, including new definitions of key competition terms (e.g., active and passive sales, unilateral specialisation agreements).