ICTSD Issue Paper: “Intellectual Property and Competition Law: Exploring Some Issues of Relevance

This issue paper addresses the interface between intellectual property law and competition law and policies. Competition laws and Intellectual Property (IP) law differ as IP law provides exclusive control by the holder over intellectual assets, while competition law seeks to avoid market barriers and ensure that market goods can effectively compete against each other benefiting consumers. The relationship between these two areas of law poses uniquely different challenges to policy makers, particularly in developing countries, who often have little practice in the application of competition policies. With a lack of international rules (the exception is Article 40 of the TRIPS Agreement) developing countries can formulate their own approaches to competition law and IPRs. While literature on IPRs and competition law often focuses on patents, other modalities of IPRs can have anti-competitive characteristics. In addition, low standards of patentability and patent examination problems may lead to patents of poor quality, further hampering competition. Some government decisions decisively shape competitive relations, such as regulations that determine the marketing approval of pharmaceutical and agrochemical products. Defining the right balance between competition and IPRs is an objective to be achieved through a diversity of policies and regimes. For example, compulsory licenses can be used, both in the context of IPRs and of competition laws, to remedy anti-competitive practises. The paper concludes with a number of recommendations to developing countries in this respect….

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