Research News

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68 news found.

EU-Mercorsur Flags symbolizing the treaty
Research News  |  07/29/2019

After the Mercosur deal: Meaningful standards of protection for Latin America?

The new trade agreement promises to open up new markets for Europe in South America. But what will it mean for the protection of intellectual property in those markets? A team of researchers in the IP Department under Director Reto M. Hilty examines the standards of protection that apply in Latin America to determine which systems of protection are most appropriate in the context of economic development

[Translate to english:]
[Translate to english:]

If you order Parmesan with your pasta in Buenos Aires, the waiter will most likely give you a friendly nod, but what he brings to your table is not likely to be recognized by lovers of Italian cuisine as “Parmigiano Reggiano”.

This will change with the new free-trade agreement between the European Union and the states of the Southern Common Market Mercosur, on which both sides reached an agreement in principle in late June.

The Mercado Común del Sur (Mercosur) constitutes South America's largest internal market. If ratified by the EU Member States and by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the trade agreement would create a free-trade zone for approximately 770 million people. The goal of the deal is to open up the European Single Market for products from the Mercosur states, in return for abolishing customs and trade barriers for industrial goods from the EU. In addition, the EU has negotiated protection for 357 food and agricultural products like cheese, ham or wine that are protected by “geographical indications of origin” from copying or misuse in the EU and, soon, in Mercosur territory. So next time you order Parmesan in Argentina, you will have a better chance of actually getting a typical Parmiggiano.

The details of the agreement are not yet finalized. The protection of other kinds of intellectual property, for example, such as technological inventions, literary and musical works, or plant varieties, is also to be included the trade deal. It remains to be seen what the specific design will be. It is already clear, however, that Latin America has very diverse rules and standards of protection that apply to these intangible goods.

“The provisions in the patent, copyright, plant variety protection, or trademark laws vary in Latin America from country to country, regardless of which trade association they belong to”, explains Reto M. Hilty, Managing Director of the Munich Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition. “During the course of the 20th century the overwhelming majority of Latin American states did commit to the high standard of protection of the industrial nations by way of international, regional and bilateral agreements, so that they could in turn take part in world trade. This despite the fact that strong protection is not necessarily in their own interest, considering the current development stage of the Latin American economies”, observes the intellectual property law expert. Analyzing these protection mechanisms and studying their effects on the economic development of the region is the goal of the research initiative “Smart IP for Latin America”.

An eight-member team is set to research the significance and functioning of different standards of protection and the effect of regulations on the dynamics of competition.

The results of this research are relevant not only for the policy-making processes of the local legislative powers, but also for companies that are interested in investing in or expanding to this region. “In Brazil, for example, methods for manufacturing transgenic plants are patentable, but not in Argentina”, points out Juan Ignacio Correa, a legal scholar and native of Argentina. And yet the question of whether and how to protect innovations in the countries themselves is essential for a forward-looking agricultural and industrial policy.” Correa will head up the new “IP Observatory” at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Scheduled for launch in October of 2019, the observatory will coordinate Institute projects in the region.

In the four projects currently ongoing, legal scholars are studying the current status of IP protection in different Latin American countries. They have to consider historical, cultural, social, economic and political particularities in order to understand the effects of the applicable laws and identify misguided or lacking regulations.

In the area of patent law the researchers are putting together country reports detailing what can be protected under the national patent systems, what types of use are exempted from patent protection and what limitations to patent protection exist, which is significant particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics or plant protection, but also in other industries. “We collect this data from different sources: the local experts' answers to a detailed questionnaire, the sources of law and case-law, and our exchange with public agencies and interest groups in the respective country”, explains Matthias Lamping, Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Munich and an expert on Latin America.

“Experience shows that strong patent protection will hardly benefit a country that generates little innovation itself but primarily relies on importing products or technologies to meet its own population's demand, for example in medicines”, reports Reto M. Hilty. Furthermore, the revenues from such innovations as a rule fail to benefit the national economy, because the great majority of owners of national patents are located outside the country. While the scope for limiting national patent protection under international law is often taken advantage of, a positive effect may still not be felt due to other factors such as a lack of competition among generic drug manufacturers.

A further field of research treats copyright protection in this region that is rich in art and music. “Films and music from the region are currently popular as far away as Asia and enjoy wide dissemination. It is doubtful, however, that the protection of authors and the system of collective rights management through CMOs, in their current form and method of operation, will really lead to Latin American artists being able to draw income from them”, asserts Hilty. The focus in this research is on examining the functionality of the rights management system and developing recommendations for lawmakers.

In the area of technology transfer the research teams are studying the functioning and effectiveness of the existing legal framework in individual countries and analyzing ways in which the innovation potential in Latin America can be optimally realized. One important aspect of this project is international technology transfer, both between highly industrialized states and the countries of Latin America and between the latter countries themselves.

In the area of protection of geographical indications of origin it has become clear that the marketing potential of regional products is nowhere near being fully realized. While a few protection labels have been created for products like coffee providing legal protection for their indication of origin, this is not yet the case for a great number of foodstuffs. “For one thing, there is a lack of coherent marketing concepts to publicize the excellent quality of some of these products, whether they rely on geographical indications of origin or collective marks; in addition, there is not enough technological innovation in the agriculture sector that could be protected by patents or plant variety rights”, explains Juan Correa. In this project as well the legal researchers employ country-specific questionnaires to determine which legal frameworks are in place and how practitioners deal with them.

One thing the research projects all have in common is their comparative approach in empirically studying regulatory and factual conditions. In the view of the research team, the only way to draw up guidelines for future legal developments is by analyzing the current situation in all its political, social and economic facets and contexts. Among the important questions: How do incentives arise for market players? Are there specific regulatory approaches that can better realize the economic and cultural potential of the Latin American region?

In the initiative “Smart IP for Latin America”, therefore, it is important to engage in a dialogue with other disciplines such as economics, sociology or political science. “Only evidence-based research allows us to make sound recommendations for action that ultimately can be addressed to political decision-makers in Latin America”, explains Prof. Hilty. He clarifies that the point is precisely not to achieve and enforce the strongest possible protection of intellectual property - at least, not in countries where the business sector currently has no competitive advantages internationally and no relevant potential for creating them. Instead, the goal of this long-term initiative is to map out a system of protection that is optimally tailored to the specific conditions and needs of each individual society and economy in the region.

“Smart IP for Latin America” advocates the promotion of cooperation between the states with specific reference to IP law on different levels extending beyond academic discourse and including long-term support. Assistance for this initiative will be provided by an Advisory Committee composed of leading Latin American scholars.

A kick-off conference for the initiative took place in early 2018 in Santiago de Chile. It was organized in cooperation with the Chilean patent and trademark office, Instituto Nacional de Propiedad Industrial (INAPI), and was followed in the fall of 2018 by a workshop in Buenos Aires dedicated primarily to the patent project. The second annual conference took place in April 2019 in Cartagena, Colombia, in cooperation with Universidad de los Andes; at this meeting the precise orientation of the research projects already underway was defined. The Instituto Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia y de la Protección de la Propiedad Intelectual (INDECOPI), the competent institution for IP rights in Peru, has agreed to host the third annual conference in March 2020, tentatively in Lima.

Whether the final version of the free-trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur states will be available by this date remains to be seen. In any case, following the basic agreement reached in June, both sides will work in tandem in the coming months to elaborate a final version of the deal, and this will then be submitted to the Council and the European Parliament for approval. Meanwhile, there is no doubt about the significance of the agreement: for the EU it will bring better business opportunities than are available today. And in the participating Latin American states, it will sow the seeds of unprecedented development - though harvesting them will only be possible with an increased awareness of which system of protection will yield the best results in each economy.

Research News  |  07/26/2019

pybliometrics – A New Software for Research With Big Bibliometric Data

pybliometrics opens up new ways for users to get more quickly to large and growing amounts of data. At the same time, the software fosters the verifiability of research results, which is a hallmark of good scientific practice.

Illustrative examples using data obtained through pybliometrics: Co-author network, word cloud of terms used in scientific abstracts, geographic center of publications of a scientist, and citation distribution for three papers.

Research organizations and researchers studying science itself are reliant on bibliometric databases. These collect data on scientific publications, which allow to “measure” scientific output. The larger a database, the more scientific activity can be captured, but the more difficult it is to extract research data.

One of the largest bibliometric databases operated by the scientific publisher Elsevier is Scopus. The pybliometrics software, developed by Michael E. Rose, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute, in interdisciplinary collaboration with John R. Kitchin (Professor for Chemical Engineering at the Carnegie Mellon University), now allows researchers working with a Scopus license or Scopus Custom Data to use this database without major hurdles and automatically download data.

The software is written in Python, a programming language, which is becoming increasingly important among scientists. pybliometrics opens up new ways for users to get more quickly to the large and growing amounts of data they need.

At the same time, pybliometrics fosters the verifiability of scientific results, as it makes it transparent for everyone, according to which definitions research data were drawn. This facilitates the replication of research results, which is a hallmark of good scientific practice.

For the publication, see here.

Research News  |  07/24/2019

Department for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Establishes New Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Group

Researchers at the Institute study the utilization and impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in order to gauge their implications for society and economy, and also use these techniques for their research.

kuri at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition. Photo: MyR

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are game-changing technologies that affect innovation and competition processes, and also the way research is conducted in the social (and other) sciences.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition are currently studying the utilization and impact of AI and ML in order to gauge their implications for society and economy. Moreover, our group actively uses Machine Learning techniques to conduct research. Furthermore, we contribute applied research results to adapt these methods to the needs of social scientists.

In order to support this work more effectively, the Department for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research at the Institute has established a Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Group consisting of researchers who actively analyze or apply AI and ML. The group acts as an observatory to monitor relevant developments in AI and ML, coordinates research on AI and ML, provides resources for colleagues, and teaches the new approaches to interested doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers.

For more information, please contact Michael E. Rose.

Opinion  |  04/16/2019

Position Paper on the government draft of 23 January 2019 for a Thuringian Transparency Act

A legal analysis of the proposed enactment of a Transparency Act in Thuringia.

grüner und weißer Spargel
Study  |  04/10/2019

More than Wine, Cheese and Asparagus

Geographical Indications (GI) protect local goods and traditional production processes against imitation and misuse. A new research project around Andrea Zappalaglio and Suelen Carls will examine the legal system of GI in an overall assessment.

grüner und weißer Spargel
"Schrobenhausener Spargel", a protected GI (Photo: cocoparisienne / Pixabay)

“Schrobenhausener Spargel”, “Asparago verde di Altedo” or “Brabantse Wal asperges” are not only names of different types of European asparagus. Their producers succeeded to be granted the protection of a geographic indication (GI). More than 1.440 names of agricultural products are registered in the EU-Database DOOR, not to mention the many wines, spirits and fortified wines that appear in other specific registers.

Andrea Zappalaglio and Suelen Carls, Senior Research Fellows at the Institute know about the economic and legal importance of the sui generis protection of origin. “A GI is first of all a label that protects a geographical name. However, the GI system as a whole constitutes a complex “quality scheme”, related to a number of relevant policies of the EU, especially, although not exclusively, the Agricultural one”, Suelen Carls explains. “There is a value in the origin link that could be used to achieve goals unrelated to the mere market function of the label, such as fostering rural development. However, whether this really works effectively is controversial”, Andrea Zappalaglio, the project coordinator, says.

As part of the EU’s system of intellectual property rights, GIs provide legal protection against imitation and misuse within the EU and in non-EU countries where a specific protection agreement exists. Non-European producers can also be granted with a GI in the EU. Products with GI-labels create a considerable market value by providing the producers a competitive advantage and creating expectations in the consumers as to the characteristics, qualities and reputation linked to the geographical origin and traditional know-how of the goods. India already makes use of GIs, especially for the protection of handcrafts, and, more recently, also China began employing a sui generis system of protection.

An overall assessment

The researchers’ team will conduct an overall assessment of the EU GI system for the protection of agricultural products and foodstuffs. “Using the structure of Regulation 1151/2012 as a trail, we aim to focus both on the substantive nature and on the procedural complexities of this right, from an empirical and comparative perspective”, explains Andrea Zappalaglio.

The researchers will also focus on the future of GIs in Europe. For instance, it will explore and assess the issue of the extension of GIs to handcrafts.

Read more:

The Debate between the European Parliament and the Commission on the Definition of Protected Designation of Origin: Why the Parliament Is Right

Reto M. Hilty und Valentina Moscon - Foto: MPI für Innovation und Wettbewerb
Miscellaneous  |  03/26/2019

"Copyright Law will become even more restrictive"

After the European Parliament, the EU Council has now also adopted the controversial copyright reform. Valentina Moscon and Reto M. Hilty explain what will change with the new Directive.

Reto M. Hilty und Valentina Moscon - Foto: MPI für Innovation und Wettbewerb
Reto M. Hilty and Valentina Moscon - Photo: D. Zirilli / MPI

The adopted Directive aims to adapt copyright law to the digital age and the digital internal market in order to keep pace with technological progress, changing user behavior and new business models.

"In some respects, the new directive is a step in the right direction - but it is far from achieving its original objectives. The extent to which creators will now be better off remains to be seen; in any case, they might benefit little or not at all from the two most controversial provisions. As for the citizens, we will now see how the platforms behave. What is certain is that copyright law will become even more restrictive - and even less comprehensible", Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty, managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition says.

"This directive disregards the original objectives of the reform and does not reflect a medium- and long-term vision of a modern European copyright law. It is regrettable that in the face of such a wide scientific consensus on the critical aspects of this Directive we have come to this result. Looking at the future, it is now up to the Member States and the European Court of Justice to implement and interpret the directive, respectively with a suitable balance of the interests at stake", Senior Research Fellow Valentina Moscon comments.

Valentina Moscon, Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, and Director Reto M. Hilty lead the project group for the modernization of copyright law. The legal experts have already analyzed the effects of the reform at an early stage of the legislative process in a  statement and compared them with the current draft resolution.

Two articles of the new directive are particularly criticized: Article 11, which in its current version has become Article 15, provides for a neighboring right for press publishers throughout Europe. News services will pay press publishers for short text excerpts from press articles - so-called snippets - on their pages. Article 13 - now Article 17 - is also controversial: it provides for liability of commercial platforms such as Youtube and others for unauthorized uploading of copyrighted works by its users.

News updated 04/15/2019

More information:

Media Review
Position Statement

(C) Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Miscellaneous  |  03/25/2019

"More Harm than Good"

On 26 March, the European Parliament votes on the EU Copyright Reform. Valentina Moscon and Reto M. Hilty have analyzed the legal consequences of the planned reform. In an interview, they explain why the planned directive misses its central objective.

(C) Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Europäisches Parlament in Strasbourg, Foto: Diliff (, CC BY-SA 3.0

Valentina Moscon, Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, and Director Reto M. Hilty lead the project group for the modernization of copyright law. The legal experts have already analyzed the effects of the planned reform at an early stage of the legislative process in a statement and compared them with the current draft resolution. Their conclusion: the directive misses its central objective over long stretches.
Link to the interview (in German)

The proposed Directive 2016/0280 COD aims to adapt copyright law to the digital age and the digital internal market in order to keep pace with technological progress, changing user behaviour and new business models.

Two articles of the planned directive have been particularly criticized: Article 11, which in its current version has become Article 15, provides a neighboring right for press publishers throughout Europe. News services will pay press publishers for short text excerpts from press articles - so-called snippets - on their pages. Article 13 - now Article 17 - is also controversial: it provides liability of commercial platforms such as Youtube and others for unauthorized uploading of copyrighted works by its users.

More Information:

”Europe Might Miss Chance For Real Copyright Law Modernization”: Interview with Prof. Reto M. Hilty
”Eine neue Kultur”:  Interview with Prof. Reto M. Hilty (in German)
Position Statement

Data Access and Control in the Era of Connected Devices (Cover)
Study  |  03/20/2019

New Study: Data Access and Control in the Era of Connected Devices

The one thing all smart devices need – whether in industry, agriculture, or the common household – is data. In his new study, Josef Drexl proposes guidelines for the the future EU legal framework for the digital economy.

On behalf of the European Consumer Organization BEUC, Josef Drexl has authored a study on data access and control in the era of connected (smart) devices.

The study comprehensively analyses the interface of existing and evolving intellectual property legislation (with a focus on sui generis database rights), trade secrets protection, and data and consumer protection rules for discussing the future legal regime for data generated and processed in an Internet-of-Things environment.

In line with earlier Position Statements of the Institute, the study rejects legislation on data ownership rights. Furthermore, it explores the possibilities and core requirements for a general data access regime on the EU level, which would complement competition rules and could be spelt out more concretely in the framework of sector-specific data access regimes.

See Study: Data Access and Control in the Era of Connected Devices

See Research Project: Data-driven Economy

Miscellaneous  |  03/19/2019

Artificial Intelligence – Perspectives for Germany

On the occasion of the opening of the German Research Summit 2019, Dietmar Harhoff points out in his keynote, that the German AI Strategy needs more agility in politics.

Source: German Research Summit 2019

The keynote is available here (in German).

The German Research Summit annually gathers around 400 decision-makers, experts, thought leaders, and newcomers in science, economics, society and politics to discuss the further development of the German innovation system. It is organized by the Stifterverband, a joint initiative started by companies and foundations promoting education, science and innovation in Germany as well as the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI).

The special focus of the German Research Summit 2019 is on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

More on AI by Dietmar Harhoff:
„Outline for a German Strategy for Artificial Intelligence“ by Dietmar Harhoff with Stefan Heumann et al.
Künstliche Intelligenz – Neue Forschungsbündnisse, Kurzkommentar von Dietmar Harhoff und Stefan Heumann im ZBW Wirtschaftsdienst

Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty
Miscellaneous  |  03/12/2019

EU and Switzerland: Neighbouring Right for Press Publisher under Criticism

Despite the controversy surrounding the European Parliament’s proposal to introduce a press publishers' neighbouring right, Switzerland has now tabled the same proposition. A group of Swiss legal scholars including Reto M. Hilty show why such a right does more harm than good.

Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty
Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty

The planned introduction of a neighbouring right for press publishers is based on a proposal from the Swiss Media Association. In the preparatory Commission for Science, Education and Culture of the Swiss Council of States  the proposal was approved. Similar to Article 11 of the proposed Copyright Directive of the EU, the Swiss proposal envisions having news service providers pay a remuneration to Swiss press publishers when they lead readers to them via short linked texts, or “snippets”.

The fact that the proposal for a neighbouring right for press publishers (Article 37a of the Swiss Copyright Act) was put forward so late in the legislative procedure drew both from legal scientists and from the creators. The country had so far always shown a wait-and-see attitude when it came to adopting EU regulations.

Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich and full professor at the University of Zurich, states: “That our copyright needs modernizing is undisputed. It has to be adapted to new lifestyles and user behavior in keeping with the times (e.g. in social networks), but also to new business models.” In a statement addressed to the Council of States, Hilty and his co-authors Prof. Florent Thouvenin (also University of Zurich) and Prof. Cyrill P. Rigamonti from the University of Berne, demonstrate the effects of the planned reform. “Modernizing copyright does not mean changing its intended purpose. Even in the digital age it is primarily supposed to provide an appropriate protection for those creating the content. The protection of the creators, however, cannot be equated with an exaggerated protection for those companies commercializing copyrighted content.”

In a first debate at the Council of States on Tuesday, the small chamber returned the proposal back to the preparatory Commission.

The Max Planck Institute in a position statement dealt intensively with the legal repercussions of the EU copyright reform at the very beginning of the European legislative procedure. Prof. Reto M. Hilty also criticized the current compromise proposal in an interview before the final vote in the EU Parliament scheduled for the end of March. The copyright expert explained that the legislation has lost sight of the goal of modernizing copyright law.

Link to Position Statement concerning the Swiss Copyright Reform

Link to Position Statement "Modernisation of European Copyright Rules"

Link to Interview