By virtue of the exclusive rights they confer, intellectual property rights play a key role in fostering innovation and economic growth. However, if they are to deliver the intended economic benefits intellectual property policies must be able to meet the challenges imposed by today’s fast-changing markets.
Globalisation and the integration of the European internal market have increased international trade and with it the incidence of, and threat of, counterfeiting. The rise of the digital economy requires a re-thinking of copyright and copyright protection. The growing importance of “strategic patenting” witnessed in the last two decades has put patent authorities under extreme pressure, leading to patent backlogs and potentially detrimental welfare consequences.
Providing an answer to these challenges requires both the ability to apply economic principles and empirical techniques, and an ability to think outside as well as within the boundaries of established frameworks.
Europe Economics has assisted clients in projects involving some of the most challenging aspects related to intellectual property policy.
We have advised the European Patent Office (EPO) in relation to a potential reform of the patent fee policy in Europe. The EPO and national patent fee policies are currently not co-ordinated in Europe although there is a shared preference for a traditional patent fee policy that is characterised by low procedural fees - designed to make the system widely accessible and to promote innovation - and progressively increasing renewal fees to induce patent holders to give up their patent rights and to subsidise the examination costs incurred by unsuccessful applications. However, in a time of surging patent applications and of increasing backlogs, the welfare-enhancing role of such traditional patent fee policy looks questionable. Based on evidence gathered through an in-depth econometric analysis of patent applications and renewal decisions, we have provided the EPO with practical recommendations about how the fee policy should react to the current challenges.
Europe Economics was the lead advisor to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) in the Competition Commission’s investigation of the UK grocery market. Part of the work we carried out was concerned with issues arising from supermarkets’ promotion of their own brands against those of established brand owners. The competition issues arising from the supermarkets’ promotion of “own brands” had to do with their position as customers of and competitors to established brand owners, their propensity towards copycat packaging, and above all their demands for access to brand owners’ development plans so that supermarkets can launch their own-brand equivalents at the same time.
We assisted a tobacco multinational in the preparation of an expert submission to the Department of Health’s “Consultation on the future of tobacco control”. The project consisted of determining the negative economic implications of the Display Ban and/or a Plain Packs Requirement in the UK. Since display–ban requirements, and in particular plain-packs requirements, substantially limit the use of brands and trademarks, our line of argument highlighted the positive role brands play in the functioning modern market, e.g. by facilitating product variety, allowing suppliers to communicate the characteristics of their products, fostering market innovation, and increasing competition by facilitating market entry and product switching.
Europe Economics has provided economic analysis to support Merck and other leading companies in trademark infringement cases. This involved analysis of incentives and the relationship between returns from trademarks and investment. We also undertook a project for AstraZeneca to assess the effects of access to the EU on intellectual property rights in - and parallel trade from - the countries joining the EU. The study involved an economic analysis of measures to prevent parallel trade in pharmaceuticals between the accession countries and the rest of the EU, and the effects of this on competition.
We assisted the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) in preparing a response to the UK-Intellectual Property Office’s public consultation on the extension of Artists’ Resale Right (ARR) to the estates of deceased artists. ARR entitles artists to a small fee when their works are sold on through dealers, and DACS is the primary collecting society which administers the receipt and disbursement of royalties. A substantial part of the study consisted of examining the impact of the existing ARR on artists and on the UK art trade.
We completed a confidential study for the UK arm of one of the world’s largest media and entertainment companies aimed at estimating the cost associated with the infringement of copyrights. In particular, we estimated the potential net impacts on the UK economy if the practice of illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing could be substantially reduced.
For the UK-Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO,) we conducted an impact assessment into proposed changes to the area of UK copyright law which relates to the exemptions which not-for-profit organisations enjoy in relation to paying royalties for the use of copyright broadcast and recorded music.
Our in-house experts in this field are Bob Young, Nick Owen and Stefano Ficco.
Primary contact: Stefano Ficco.