Chapter 6: Intellectual property, free movement and competition
Intellectual property poses a particular challenge for the European Union. The protection of intellectual property is seen as an essential element in the success of the single market: ‘In our increasingly knowledge-based economies, the protection of intellectual property is important for promoting innovation and creativity, developing employment, and improving competitiveness.’ On the other hand, to create a genuine single market in Europe, barriers to trade and anti-competitive practices must be eliminated or reduced as much as possible, while maintaining an environment favourable to innovation and investment. The difficulty is finding the correct balance between competing demands. This chapter will cover the history of the various areas in some detail. EU law in this important area has developed very significantly, from comparatively simple beginnings. It is helpful to see how the governing principles evolved, in the context of a wide variety of factual situations which were often new and challenging to EU law. The outline facts of three illustrative trade mark cases reveal some of the recurring problems which the Community faces in reconciling competing priorities. The legal aspects of all three cases will be discussed in more detail in what follows. Valium, a tranquiliser belonging to the benzodiazepine family, was launched by Hoffmann-La Roche in 1963. It proved a huge therapeutic and commercial success. The first of the so-called ‘blockbuster’ drugs, it was the top selling prescription drug during the 1970s, and achieved near-iconic status in popular culture. At its peak in 1978, nearly 2.3 billion pills were sold.
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