Event Report  |  07/21/2016

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

With a two-day event on 12 and 13 May 2016 in the impressive rooms of the Munich Residence the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition celebrated its founding 50 years ago.

f.l.t.r.: Prof. Dietmar Harhoff, Ph.D., Prof. Peter Drahos, Ph.D., Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, Dr. Georg Schütte, Prof. Dr. Josef Drexl, Ilse Aigner, Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty, Prof. Dr. Martin Stratmann, Prof. Dr. Hans-W. Micklitz. Photo: Andreas Pollok

With welcoming speeches by guests from the political, economic and academic spheres, the official ceremony, which took place in the Imperial Hall, acknowledged the significance of the Institute and the topics of its research for wide areas of society. The academic symposium, held in the Max Joseph Hall, focused on the internal perspective, looking at past research contributions of the Institute and potential avenues for future research, and included contributions by alumni, academic guests and members of the Board of Advisors.

The Institute first took up its work on 1 March 1966 as the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law under the direction of Eugen Ulmer. Since then it has carried out basic research on various aspects of intellectual property and competition law, advised decision-makers in politics and economics and provided guidance for legislative proposals. Following the addition of an economic sciences department in 2013, the central focus of the Institute’s research is now on the framework conditions for innovation and competition and how to shape the processes involved by legal and economic means.

In his welcoming speech, Prof. Dietmar Harhoff, Ph.D., Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, described the Institute’s four name changes in recent years as an expression of the “dynamic nature of its fields of research and the increasing interconnectedness” of the Institute. He cited among its current topics digitalization and connectedness. “Seen in this light, business models and data protection issues, but also the design of copyright and competition legislation, have a much stronger international dimension than ever before in the history of the Institute“, emphasized Harhoff. The scientific guidance of standardization measures is an important task. Not least through its “increased focus on the empirical analysis of the workings of legal norms and the activities of economic agents on markets”, the Institute has opened itself up to new research methods. Even with the Institute’s dynamic history, however, it has always had an “element of great reliability”, Harhoff stressed: “The Institute has succeeded time and again in finding excellent, talented employees in all areas”.

The President of the Max Planck Society, Prof. Dr. Martin Stratmann, praised the Institute “an excellent example of a successful founding and a constant process of adjustment to the scientific questions of the day”. The topics of innovation and competition are “today more important than ever”, Stratmann stated. “They dominate the headlines and are omnipresent in the innovation dialogue with the German Chancellor”, said the President. “And our MPI for Innovation and Competition is right at the heart of it, and with its legal-economic orientation it is best prepared to get at the very essence of innovation and competition as such – independently and from a scientific perspective”. The inclusion of the field of innovation economics in an Institute with an orientation toward intellectual property and competition law was a logical but in and of itself nevertheless a “very innovative step”, said Stratmann, citing the worldwide recognition of the Institute’s expertise: It was not without reason that Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas last year referred to the MPI as “the most important European think tank for intellectual property and copyright law”. As examples of the Institute’s activities Stratmann named the Conflict of Laws in Intellectual Property, or “CLIP”, Principles on issues of international procedural law and applicable law in the area of intellectual property, which were formulated under the direction of the MPI for Innovation and Competition and the MPI for Foreign and International Private Law, as well as the Institute’s consultation activity during the adoption of the Directive on Collective Rights Management and the subsequent German implementation in a new Act on Collecting Societies.

Just how studious the researchers at the Institute are, the Max Planck Society President was able to report at first hand: When he leaves his office in administrative headquarters at the end of the day, in the opposite wing of the glass science complex, he can always see researchers working in the Institute’s library, “some with law books, some without, from all parts of the world and always bent in intense concentration”. This, he confirmed, stands for many things that comprise the core ideals of the Max Planck Society: “Internationality, interdisciplinarity and up-and-coming scientists who are eager to work“. A Max Planck President, he concluded, could not have a more satisfactory end to his working day.

State Secretary Dr. Georg Schütte from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research likewise held the bundling of competences in economics and law within one Max Planck Institute to be “a good solution”. With its new orientation, the Institute plays “an outstanding role in the field of innovation research in Germany” today. The pervasiveness of digitalization in all areas of work and life means that immaterial goods are more and more becoming an integral part of new business models in our net-based economy. Because this trend will shape not only our way of working, but also our way of life in crucial ways, it also increasingly raises “ethical questions”, explained Schütte, listing the most urgent ones: “Who has the primary right to personal data, and especially the knowledge generated from these data: the provider of data, the collector of data, or the user of data? Who under the legal regime is originally vested with the right to dispose of non-personal and yet activity-based data, even if such data might again be transferred? And how can a common basic consensus be achieved in this area by international cooperation?” These questions cannot be answered without legal-ethical value judgments. “In your Institute we have an institution”, State Secretary Schütte declared, “that, both with its analysis concerning the protection of immaterial goods and with the corresponding topics in innovation and entrepreneurship, has filled in a crucial gap in German research”.

Bavarian Minister for the Economy Ilse Aigner congratulated the Max Planck Institute as an “internationally renowned think tank”. She described Bavaria’s strategy for dealing with the digital challenge through its economic and scientific policy, for instance by creating 20 new digital professorships or support for digital start-ups. Aigner defined her goal as putting Bavaria at the head of the digital economy in Germany. “Big data”, she said, is one major emerging topic in which the strictures of data protection and thus of the law will undeniably have to be observed. “You won’t run out of topics for your work anytime soon”, the politician predicted.

Speaking for the Academic Advisory Board, Prof. Dr. Hans-W. Micklitz (European University Institute) focused on the new culture of interdisciplinary research. “The Advisory Board congratulates the Max Planck Society for its courageous and groundbreaking decision to bring together law and economics under one roof”, Micklitz said. With its new orientation, he noted, the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition is not only following the suggestion of the German Council of Science and Humanities, which has in clear terms stressed the necessity of a stronger interdisciplinarity between the social and the economic sciences, but will also allow the German law and economics disciplines to forge a “link to developments in Europe and the USA”. From the perspective of the legal sciences, the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition is taking on a centurial task – “what the Americans call ‘law and …’: law and social science, law and art, law and music, and now likewise law and economics”, as Micklitz described the challenge. “Collaboration can only succeed by means of a theory-based common methodology”.

Further words of welcome were spoken by Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, Chair of the Board of Trustees and President of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, and Prof. Dr. Bernd Huber, President of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. The key-note speech was held by Professor Peter Drahos, Ph.D., of the Australian National University.

The musical setting for the official ceremony was provided by a very special program: Richard Strauss’ Lieder cycle “Der Krämerspiegel”. This rarely performed work, a series of songs from the year 1918 with lyrics by Alfred Kerr, originated in a dispute between the composer and the music publisher Bote & Bock. Strauss, who fought tirelessly for improvements to copyright law in Germany – and who is also known as the “godfather” of the collecting agency GEMA, in the “Krämerspiegel” (or “Shopkeeper’s Mirror”), satirizes the tense relationship between creators and publishers in mordant aphorisms: “The artists are the creators, Their misfortune is the bloodsuckers” (“Die Künstler sind die Schöpfer, ihr Unglück sind die Schröpfer”). Presenting this “work of revenge in words and music” were soprano Ute Ziemer and Julian Riem on the piano.

Academic Symposium

At the academic symposium in the Max Joseph Hall of the Munich Residence, Director Dietmar Harhoff outlined the challenges arising from the growing significance of the Internet. “Our understanding of innovation up until now has been technology-heavy – but now we are observing that innovation increasingly tends to be rooted in new, Internet-based business models”. Director Prof. Dr. Josef Drexl referred to “competition as an important infrastructure for innovations” in which the principles of use have to be updated constantly, such as in the current topic of big data. Director Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty pointed out the discrepancy between the highly dynamic markets with ever new innovative products and the seemingly static instruments for regulating them using proprietary rights. A more competition-oriented conception of IP rights, he argued, would not contradict patent law, but it might take more adequate consideration of the dynamics of the markets, an area that the Institute is to study in more detail in the future.

The Institute’s two departments presented the current state of their research during the full-day event and discussed research strategies and future areas of emphasis with international experts and alumni of the Institute.

An introductory lecture by Dietmar Harhoff on “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” was followed by a podium discussion. The participating panelists were Dr. Heinrich Arnold, Senior Vice President, Telekom Innovation Laboratories, Deutsche Telekom AG; Prof. Petra Moser, Ph.D., New York University School of Business, NYU Stern; and Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Arnold Picot, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Dr. Karin Hoisl, Universität Mannheim.

The session entitled “Property” was opened with a key-note lecture by Reto Hilty, which was followed by a podium discussion. The invited panelists were Alison Brimelow, CBE, President emerita, European Patent Office (EPO); Prof. Dan L. Burk, University of California, Irvine School of Law; and Prof. Michel Vivant, Sciences Po Law School, Paris. Prof. Dr. Alexander Peukert, Goethe Universität Frankfurt, led the discussion.

The session on “Innovation in Competition Law” was introduced by Josef Drexl. The participants in the podium discussion following his key-note address were Prof. Michal Gal, University of Haifa School of Law; Prof. Warren S. Grimes, Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles; and Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Kühn, Centre for Competition Policy (CCP), University of East Anglia. The session’s moderator was Prof. Dr. Rupprecht Podszun, Universität Bayreuth.

The three main themes were brought together in a final podium discussion. Participants in this debate were, besides the Institute’s three Directors Harhoff, Hilty and Drexl, Heinrich Arnold of Telekom Innovation Laboratories; Petra Moser of the New York University School of Business; Dan Burk from Irvine School of Law; Michel Vivant from Sciences Po Law School; Michal Gal of the University of Haifa School of Law; and Warren S. Grimes of Southwestern Law School. The moderator of the session was Dr. Gert Würtenberger, President of the Deutsche Vereinigung für Gewerblichen Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht (GRUR).

The academic day ended with summarizing remarks by Peter Drahos of the Australian National University.