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Intellectual Property Rights in Europe – Where do We Stand and Where Should We Go?

Harhoff, Dietmar (2006). Intellectual Property Rights in Europe – Where do We Stand and Where Should We Go? 2006.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) have recently been subject to numerous, sometimes highly controversial debates in Europe. An arcane technical matter prior to the 1990s, the design of IPR systems now attracts attention, not only among the users of the respective IPR systems, but also more broadly among the citizens of Europe. It is generally accepted that IPRs can play an important role for fostering innovation, but the design choices for IPR systems remain contested. Some of the renewed interest is created by the perception that over the last decades, the IPR systems have strengthened the position of rights owners over those of the users of protected subject matter. This chapter argues that this perception is at least partly correct. In the field of copyright, technical and legal developments have contributed to a shift of control towards commerical content providers. In the area of patent rights, changes in the behavior of applicants have led to strong increases in the demand for patent protection, coupled with some signs of quality deterioration in the patent system. While Europe may have fared relatively well when compared to the US, problems are emerging in the EU as well. From an economic perspective, there is a need for harmonizing European adminstrative and legal practices in the area of IPRs while increasing the quality standards used in these system. Moreover, a new balance between the owners of rights and users of the protected subject matter needs to be found in many fields.