This main area of research deals with structures and developments of international treaties and conventions that address the regulation of innovation and competition. The focus of the Institute in this field includes the interaction between international and national law. The aim is to identify structures within the existing international legal framework, to improve the coordination of existing and future regulations and to detect leeway for complementary regulation. In times of globalisation, international collaboration needs to be strengthened while at the same time respecting necessary State sovereignty. Differences between developing and developed countries as well as the protection of important legal interests (such as public health, nutrition, climate protection, human rights and education) should be considered.
Competition and innovation have gone through an exponential process of globalisation during the last century, while fürther development of the law has to a large extent remained tied to the notion of national sovereignty. The international legal system only reacts slowly and sporadically to challenges concerning the regulation of competition and innovation in international markets brought about by globalisation. Not only the interaction between competition and innovation, but also between the promotion of innovation, on the one hand, and the protection of potentially conflicting State objectives, on the other (such as public health and nutrition, climate protection, biodiversity, education, human rights, social stability and sustainable economic development) is often unclear. Additionally, agreements, organisations, and other stakeholders are insufficiently linked and coordinated at the international level. As a result of all this, the legislator is confronted with considerable challenges. In particular, a situation may arise where contradictory solutions are proposed to resolve these tensions and to find answers to legal-normative questions. On the one hand, this plurality leads to a certain degree of legal uncertainty, but on the other it provides a variety of different perspectives.
This main area of research deals with the development of different international legal systems and their institutional structures as far as they generally concern regulation of innovation and competition. The aim is to address the conflicts between different areas of law regarding their content and objective, the tension existing between industrialised and developing countries, and the tension between setting standards on a global scale and the need to leave enough leeway for national solutions.
The subject-matter of the research includes multilateral treaties defining a legal framework within which States can make use of their sovereignty to regulate innovation and competition. This concerns treaties explicitly regulating intellectual property (such as the Paris Convention, the TRIPS Agreement, etc.), but also those which merely touch on questions of intellectual property or competition law among many other issues (investment protection agreements, environmental protection agreements, etc.). The pursuit of international harmonisation (of law) has created a steadily growing, complex set of rules whose interfaces have rarely been subject to research.
Further in the light of growing difficulties regarding the implementation of multilateral approaches, bilateral and regional treaties play an increasingly important role. This includes bilateral investment protection and free trade agreements (FTAs), economic partnership agreements (EPAs), the promotion of development and comprehensive regional integration agreements. These different approaches have one thing in common: they create special rules between the signatories. These go beyond global standards and thus lead to a further fragmentation of the international legal system. Meanwhile, in many of these treaties, intellectual property rights are regulated in such detail that hardly any leeway remains for an appropriate national implementation. As a result, developing countries in particular have to a large extent lost the flexibility to regulate innovation and competition in line with their own development prospects within their borders. Developing countries respond to these developments by intensifying regional cooperation among themselves. However, these agreements focus on typical developmental interests and attempt to address issues which are ignored in multilateral treaties.
Research in this area can take different approaches. The starting point of research in this field is the demonstration of contradictions and economic dysfunctionalities within the existing system. On this basis, the existing legal system can be accepted as given, while focusing on a better coordination of conflicting legal rules, especially with the aim to increase States’ flexibility for the implementation of public international law. Finally, proposals to reform the existing system can be developed.