FTC Head Highlights Link Between IP Rights and Competition


Executive Director of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), Barbara Lee has said that some persons might use the global concern about the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights, to undermine competition.
Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Mrs. Lee said that while intellectual property could not be subjected to free-for-all use, certain rules would have to apply regarding how and under what circumstances the owners of IP rights could exclude others from using that property.
She observed that if the rules (regarding the protection of IP rights) did not give consideration to the competitive and anti-competitive effects, then the end result would be that persons would get into the market to build that sector, but it would eventually become sterile as the owner of the IP rights had control and there was no opportunity for expansion.
“The issue of intellectual property (IP) rights and its interface with competition laws is important, especially since the Caribbean region and the world over are concerned about IP rights and how they can be enforced and how they are breached,” Mrs. Lee said.
She pointed out that competition authorities (such as the FTC) across the globe would need to be concerned about how IP rights are used. She noted that the advent of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) would pose several challenges to competition authorities within the region and that there would have to be a fair amount of co-operation and linkage among the regional agencies. This, she pointed out would be better facilitated when the CARICOM Commission (regional counterpart of the FTC) is established.
Nonetheless, the Executive Director said that the focus of the FTC would be to make sure that in protecting IP rights, “competition is not stifled and is allowed to flourish and that rivals get a chance to innovate and ply their wares in the marketplace”.
Pointing out that the issue of competition and IP rights would be the Commission’s focus at this year’s annual Shirley Playfair lecture, Mrs. Lee said the topic was very important at this time as new types of intellectual property were now being considered.
The theme for this year’s discussion is: ‘The Interface Between Competition and Intellectual Property Rights – Lessons from the Microsoft Battles’. The presenter will be Dr. William Bishop, Professor of the Economics of Competition at the College of Europe.
The Shirley Playfair lecture will be held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Thursday, November 18 at 6:00 p.m. and is open to the public at no cost. This year’s lecture is the fifth in the series and is staged to honour the life of the FTC’s first Chairman, Shirley Playfair, who passed away in April 2001.

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