Innovation, recognized as critical to growth of national economies, is often cited as a primary justification for the grant of intellectual property rights and the varying periods within which these ‘monopolies’ can be exercised. It is sometimes claimed, therefore, that there is a tension between competition law that might be viewed as ‘antimonopoly’ and intellectual property law that grants exclusive rights that might be viewed as monopolistic. This, however, is not the case. Although competition law has, in some cases, restricted intellectual property rights, e.g., those that are exercised beyond their lawful scope, competition law and intellectual property law often have similar objectives, including to further consumer interest through a competitive market place offering innovative products and services. However, in some competition cases against companies engaged in innovation such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple, etc., that are rooted in intellectual property principles, the balance between applying competition principles and IP principles is not always clear or uncontroversial.
While the European courts have sought to draw a distinction between the existence of IP rights and their exercise within the specific subject matter of the right that, in principle should not be affected by competition law, the distinction does not provide a safe harbour for IP rights. This is because the ECJ has also considered abusive practices that fall within the scope of the “specific subject matter” of the IP right in certain “exceptional circumstances”. The Court also gives a broad definition to the term “exercise”, thus keeping an important discretion as to the scope of the application of competition law. The course aims at exploring in detail the relationship between competition law and intellectual property law.