Tuesday 15 January 2013

All at sea with innovation and incentives

It can be interesting when two different subject areas collide, hence my attendance at a half day conference held in the very pleasant surroundings of the Competition Appeals Tribunal in London yesterday, hosted by University College London, and titled 'Competition Law and Intellectual Property Rights: Whose balance of innovation and Incentives? 

The event was billed such that it would "explore the tension between competition law and intellectual property law and will look at the different focuses on static versus dynamic efficiencies. It will explore the differences from the view points of the courts, IP authorities and competition authorities" but I have to say I spent three and a half hours in a fairly baffled state as a succession of speakers made their points, almost all of which soared way way above me.

The event had an illustrious line up and was hosted by Professor Sir Robin Jacob and Dr Ioannis Lianos from UCL, and featured Mr Justice Barling, President of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, Giovanni Pitruzella, chair of the Italian Competition Authority,  Judge Gabriella Muscolo from the specialist competition law and IP division at the Rome District Court, Ameila Fletcher, Chief Economist at the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Howard Shelanski, Director of the Bureau of Economics at the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Tony Clayton, Chief Economist at the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Henning Leupold from European Commission, Antonio Bavasso from Allen & Overy, Damien Geradin from Covington & Burling LLP and Dr Peter Davies from Compass Lexecon.

Now these are all really expert speakers, but the trouble was that, apart from the talks from Sir Gerald Barling, Ms Fletcher and Mr Shelanski, I didn't really have a clue what was going on. It took until half way through the second panel (already running alarmingly late) that economist Dr Cristina Caffara from CRA gave some basic definitions - particularly what the key term 'dynamic efficiencies' actually meant in this context. I am sure the compwetition lawyers were up to speed but although I did study one module focussed on economics during my undergraduate years (jointly hosted by the London School of Economics, so worth a visit for a King's student for the terrifying Paternoster lifts alone!) and I profess an interest in competition law, I found that the talks from Henning Leupold, Damien Geradin and Dr Peter Davies way way over my head - some of the graphs Dr Davies put forward as simple explanations - of - well something, were all very relevant, but having spoken to my neighbours, they completely outwitted a number of us. 

I had to leave at the scheduled finish time - but there was still a full panel yet to be heard on 'Dynamic efficiencies: Institutional Arrangements' which I missed, but I suspect it would not have added much clarity to my own much confused state. Now I do music, copyright and trademark,s and patents and pharma, and even technology, can be outside of my comfort zone, but at least I have a basic understanding - and I was sort of expecting something which I could at least I could engage with - more akin to MPS v Murphy - or even the CISAC case, but neither were mentioned in the two panels I could attend.

So a plea to conference organisers - when you bring together different subject areas you might need to provide some basic explanations before ploughing ahead into detail - however expertly it is presented. For both subjects! Even Sir Robin, who chaired the second panel "Dynamic Efficiencies: The Courts, IP and Competition Authorities", professed to be confused by some of the content on the first panel more simply titled "The opposition between competition law and IP law". And run to time! That said, If I can find a link to a blog that gives a more pertinent report than this, l then rest assured I will!

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