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Sunday, 9 July 2006

TOWARDS A EUROPEAN UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW


Towards a European Unfair Competition Law

The IPKat has been dipping into a new book, Towards a European Unfair Competition Law: a clash between families, by Rogier W. de Vrey. The author (left) is a Junior Associate Professor at CIER (the Centre for Intellectual Property Law) at the University of Utrecht; he also edits a journal on intellectual property and advertising law.

What the publisher says:

"The main aim of this book is to discuss the state of unfair competition law in the European Union. In this respect, the various efforts that have been made in the past to come to harmonization of this area of law and the reasons that they were only partially successful are reviewed. In addition, the International and European regulations that refer to unfair competition, like, e.g., the Paris Convention, the TRIPs and the recent 2004 Unfair Commercial Practices Directive are discussed. Also an overview is given of the unfair competition laws in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands with respect to the ‘problem-areas’ of slavish imitation, misleading advertising, denigrating one’s competitor, trade secrets and finally, misappropriation of valuable trade assets.

Unfair competition law is traditionally considered part of intellectual property law. Not only the relation of unfair competition law to intellectual property laws are therefore part of the discussion but also the areas of consumer protection law (since unfair competition law is partly orientated towards consumer protection) and competition (as an economic concept) is the topic of thorough review".
What the IPKat says: The author has certainly made every effort to read widely around his subject and to gain familiarity with different systemic approaches to unfair competition: this may be seen not only from the fact that he spent time with the Max Planck Institute in Munich and the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute in London, but also from the wide scope of the sources he has read (the bibliography is most impressive). But it's not just the bibliography that impresses - the author has produced a serious work of scholarship, for which he is to be congratulated.

The book, which is current to September 2005 and therefore contains reference to Directive 2005/29 concerning unfair business-to-consumer practices, consists of relatively few chapters: they address, respectively,
* International and European Law (the 'International' bit makes depressing reading since it shows how little it has been possible to achieve in the field of unfair competition other than in securing a broad agreement that something should be done);

* Dutch law. Taking a historical perspective, the author leads the reader through the various stages in the development law, through the Lindenbaum/Cohen Supreme Court case to the various legislative reports and proposals leading to the present law.
* German law. This is another painstaking account of the evolution of German statute law to the UWG 2004.

* English law. This chapter is quite adventurous, addressing topics such as malicious falsehood and the various voluntary codes of advertising practice as well as the core of English case law on passing off and trade secrecy.

* Comparative law, in which the author addresses the issue whether an overall concept of unfair competition can be said to underpin the laws of the three compared jurisdictions.
The IPKat is no admirer of indexes and rarely uses them himself; yet on this occasion he feels that a good index might assist the reader who does not have the opportunity to read the book from cover to cover but does want to check up on specific developments or trading practices. The index to this book is very short and, being located ahead of the appendices, is quite easy to miss.

Bibliographic details: published by Martinus Nijhoff 2006. ISBNs 10 90 04 15040 4;
13 978 9004150 40 9. Hardback. xvii + 358pp plus a small number of appendices. List price €165.00/US$ 223.00. Rupture factor: low-to-medium - the book's not too heavy, but the cover's smooth and shiny so you can easily drop it on your foot.

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