Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aussies Question IP

The government of Australia is currently conducting a formal review of competition policy in the Lucky Country.   As part of its review, Australia commissioned a Competition Policy Review Panel to prepare an "Issues Paper" entitled "Competition Policy Review" ("Review").  Although the Review only briefly addresses intellectual property policy, the two paragraphs it does include are worth considering:
2.18  The underlying rationale for governments to grant intellectual property (IP) rights (such as patents, trademarks and copyrights) is that creations and ideas, once known, may otherwise be copied at little cost, leading to under-investment in intellectual goods and services.  However, providing too much protection for IP can deter competition and limit choice for consumers.
Questions:  Are there restrictions arising from IP laws that have an unduly adverse impact on competition? Can the objectives of these IP laws be achieved in a manner more conducive to competition?
Even before the Statute of Monopolies became English law in 1624, officially-sanctioned intellectual property protections, such as patent and copyright, have been in confusing tension with laws intended to promote competition.  It is ambitious for Australia to be asking basic questions about how to harmonize intellectual property laws with those intended to promote robust competition.  Let's hope the Aussies can battle through to some fair dinkum answers.