Business Innovation and the Law
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Business Innovation and the Law

Perspectives from Intellectual Property, Labour, Competition and Corporate Law

Edited by Marilyn Pittard, Ann L. Monotti and John Duns

Business Innovation and the Law analyses the topical issue of protecting and promoting business research and development. It does so by examining business innovation through the lens of different legal disciplines – intellectual property, labour and employment laws, competition and corporate laws.
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Chapter 11: Employees’ inventions and the employment contract: a European Union perspective

Riccardo Del Punta


In European legal systems, norms governing employees’ inventions are not fully integrated with labour law systems, as provided either by national patent legislation (France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Hungary) or by special Acts (Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland). Despite this, due to the connection between the employment contract and the intellectual creation in which the invention consists, the protective function which is characteristic of labour law infiltrates into such norms, giving them hybrid features. Nevertheless, from the perspective of a legal system, they fundamentally remain an – albeit particular – branch of patent legislation. Surprising as it may seem, European patent legislation is still established at national level, since decades of debate about the creation of a sui generis patent right for the European market have persisted without result until very recently.1 This has happened despite the fact that the European Union possesses all the legal instruments necessary to establish a common standard in this field, which would help to reinforce the single market and promote business innovation throughout Europe. A first cornerstone in the debate about the creation of a European patent protection was laid in 1997 when a Green Paper on the Com- munity Patent and the patent system in Europe was issued. This is significant in relation to the issue under discussion since it recommended, inter alia, that different national regulations governing inventions made by employees should be harmonized. This recommendation was justified by the fact that the many differences existing between the European legal systems had an impact

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