International opportunities for students

Instructor: Simonetta Vezzoso, simonetta.vezzoso [at];
Class hours: 36 (6 ECTS)

Course objectives

Intellectual property (IP) and competition policy issues are increasingly relevant to undertakings, especially to those facing dynamic markets in an international environment. The course aims at providing students with solid theoretical and practical foundations in dealing with the legal facets of managing innovation. Both intellectual property law and competition policy can be said to pursue, by different means, the same primary aim of stimulating the innovation process. On the one hand, by allowing innovators to appropriate the results of their investments, incentives are created to take risks and engage in innovation activities. Competitive markets, on the other hand, allow for new products and services to emerge and be tested by consumers and/or other undertakings. However, as long as intellectual property rights (IPRs), like in particular patents and copyrights, are considered plain monopolies, there is arguably an inherent tension between the two above mentioned legal fields, in particular where such monopoly rights granted to creators and inventors stifle growth because of poorly designed "incentives" rules. 
In this vein, it is especially the role of IPRs as tools to motivate firms to invest in innovation activities that has been seriously questioned in the last two decades. The case for further and general strengthening of IPRs appears weak, and it is increasingly understood that a new balance needs to be struck between rewarding risk-takers and diffusing new knowledge. This course examines the interface between intellectual property and competition law, looking in particular at how competition law is already affecting intellectual property. Moreover, the course is aimed at analyzing the peculiarities of the legal management of the intellectual assets of firms acting in different economic sectors (e.g., fashion industry, information and communication technology markets, pharmaceutical industry). 
On completing this course, students will be able to: 
a) clearly identify those contexts in which innovation management decisions are influenced by intellectual property law and competition policy considerations
b) explain, in an interdisciplinary way, the core principles of intellectual property and competition law 
c) employ general analysis skills helping them to identify crucial issues and therefore to ask the right questions in the management and expansion of the firm's intellectual (property) assets
d) understand and follow international trends in the area of IPRs and competition policy especially relevant to dynamic industries (e.g., so called "search bias" as investigated by competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic and its possible meaning and effects for other undertakings active in markets affected by such practices).


The course provides an in-depth examination of the interface between intellectual property and competition law. 
The first part will be devoted to acquiring a basic knowledge of the intellectual property law system, starting from the national regime and moving to the European and international dimensions. Topics covered include, among others, technology licensing (e.g., software, both "closed" and "open"), the doctrine of exhaustion (also in the digital environment), the patentability of biotechnological inventions, copyright in the information society (involving questions such as music licensing and e-books), trade marks, designs, etc. The second part of the course is devoted to competition policy (national, European and at the international level), paying due attention to the most relevant developments with regards to European and American antitrust law, such as cartels and leniency, the question of anti-competitive abuses of intellectual property rights (as exemplified by the iconic European Microsoft case) and the competition assessment of technology licence agreements, both "horizontal" and "vertical". 

Teaching Methods

Each course topic will be introduced through demonstration and discussion of past, current as well as hypothetical cases. The class discussions and assignments are specifically designed to help investigating industry specific problems, evaluate alternative approaches to them, and think about the most promising course of action.

Learning Assessment 

The final grade (ranging from 1 to 30, according to the Italian University system) will depend on the following components:

  • 80% final written exam on all the materials presented during the course
  • 20% based on class assignments, involvement, and attendance.

Reference Texts

There is no one available, comprehensive textbook for this interdisciplinary course. Instead, materials presented and discussed during class will form an "open" research/study handbook, i.e. a compilation of selected study materials made of specific parts of research articles, official studies and reports - e.g. by the OECD, national and regional competition authorities, IP offices, etc. Course readings and other assignments to be updated weekly on the course's blog.

Further information

Instructor's blog and source of many of the course's topics: