Our research focuses on intellectual property law, on unfair competition law and on the rights of privacy, publicity and personality.
The importance of intellectual property law in a knowledge- and information-based society is steadily increasing. Patents and utility models foster technological innovation. Copyright enhances cultural diversity and protects the economic and ideal interests of creators. Distinctive signs, most particularly trade marks, create a channel of communication between traders and consumers, thereby protecting both trade goodwill and market transparency. Unfair competition law is closely related to intellectual property law. It is trade practices law, which at the same time protects the goodwill and the market freedom of traders, the freedom of consumer decision-making and the public interest in undistorted competition. According to the monistic approach prevailing in Germany, personality rights, like copyright, protect both ideal (privacy) and economic interests (publicity).
We look into the basic principles and into specific issues of these areas of law. A recurring theme in our research is the quest for a fair balance between an effective protection of intellectual property and the public interest in free competition. This relationship is also the main research interest of the Bayreuth graduate school “Intellectual Property and the Public Domain”, which is sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and of which all researchers of our team are members. One of the questions we investigate is whether there are general principles of intellectual property law, either at the European or at the national level, which apply to all areas of intellectual property law. Current research projects are: in patent law the patenting of nanotechnological inventions and the limits of patent law protection in cases of “patent trolling”, in trade mark law the balance between protection and the freedom of expression with relation to keyword advertising and trade mark parody and the relationship between trade marks on the one hand and copyright and unfair competition law on the other hand, in copyright its impact on research and teaching, in unfair competition law its Europeanisation, unfair product imitation and comparative advertising, in personality law the privacy protection of celebrities and the relationship between personality rights and intellectual property law. Since our academic staff is also involved in the teaching of general civil law, we are interested in the interface between intellectual property law and related areas such as contract and tort law, competition law and private international law.
The European and international dimension is of utmost importance to our work. Besides engaging in classical comparative law, in particular in comparisons between civil law and common law, we think that it is time to develop a genuinely European doctrine of intellectual property and unfair competition law. We closely cooperate with colleagues from other European countries, in particular from the UK, Scandinavia and Switzerland. Apart from the international dimension we are interested in the philosophical and economic foundations of intellectual property law.
At our Chair, the Intellectual Property Journal (IPJ = Zeitschrift für Geistiges Eigentum, ZGE) and the monograph series “Intellectual Property and Competition Law” are co-edited.