Immaterial values, based primarily on technical innovation or intellectual creativity, are of paramount importance in today’s economic order. Questions concerning the legal protection of such values, e.g. through patent law, copyright law or trade mark law are correspondingly accorded fundamental importance. Constantly arising challenges such as new technologies (e.g. bio- or nanotechnology, and also information technology) or changing market behaviours continually lead to new questions.
The particular attention currently garnered by IP law is based on the notion that protection rights are no longer seen as ends in themselves; rather, that they are interventions in free and dynamic competition and require justification. One topic currently under discussion is overprotection, for example, because an exaggerated notion of copyright protection threatens to hinder the needs of the information society. Striking examples in other areas of law lead to doubts of the efficacy of recent tendencies to extend protection, for example, concerning abstract colour marks. Somewhat less in the focus of public discussion is the necessity to avoid an insufficiency of protection, as a lack of legal security can result in the absence of incentives for investment.
These controversies show that IP goods can only be properly understood within the context of competition law. The latter is aimed at ensuring that the free and independent actions of all players on the market are protected from practices that threaten to distort or limit competition. As a result, both control mechanisms are targeted at the same object of a competition-oriented, dynamic and innovation-promoting economic order. Conflicts in evaluation come about when protection rights are incorrectly determined, when such rights are in certain cases misused by right holders, or on the contrary interventions of antitrust law are taken too far. This theoretically certain state of knowledge stands opposite to a notable deficit in concrete recognition with respect to the appropriate structuring of individual legal instruments. The need for research – also on an interdisciplinary level – is equally large.
As a result of continuous globalisation, all of the questions must increasingly be discussed and answered on an international rather than a national or European level. From a substantive perspective, an understanding and examination of the areas of IP law and competition law is impossible in isolation as these are after all embedded in general national and international legal orders. Thus, as already seen in the arrangement of IP rights, and above all in their application and enforcement, general principles and legal concepts of classical civil law come into effect. Viewed in a larger context, IP law and competition law can therefore, in a broader sense, be included with private business law, as it falls back on the central concepts of civil law, and further embraces partially bordering areas of law such as commercial law. In addition, from the related general questions of civil and commercial law, new research topics come up again and again – including the Institute’s core research areas.
Economic research questions around the key subjects innovation and entrepreneurship are of high relevance to the legal research at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition. Within the scope of a new department at the MPI, the new Munich Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research (MCIER), a team of researchers examines these questions. MCIER engages in research to explore and analyze the courses, determinants, outcomes and implications of innovation and entrepreneurship processes.
The primary task is basic research in the areas of IP law and competition law. Thanks to the close connection of its research fellows with diverse national and foreign universities, the Institute is capable to a large extent of incorporating insights that are won from its research activities into university teaching. In this way, significant relationships in commercial law issues are demonstrated at the student level. The teaching activities of members of the Institute often motivate students to take on work in academia.
Alongside such teaching activities at universities, there are other educational opportunities at the MPI. On the one hand, the International Max Planck Research School for Competition and Innovation (IMPRS-CI) offers especially gifted German and foreign students the opportunity to prepare for their doctorate in the context of a structured, interdisciplinary programme with excellent research conditions. On the other hand, a specialised master’s programme (LL.M.) is offered in cooperation with various universities through the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center (MIPLC) with an international student body. Primary educational purposes are further served by the general scholarship programme, which accompanies young researchers from all over the world and also offers and independent academic qualification.