Competition law

Specifically, competition law standardizes the law against unfair competition and protects competitors, consumers and other market players from unfair business practices. Unfair competition practices are those that considerably change the competitive situation to the disadvantage of other competitors, consumers or market players. This blanket clause is supplemented by a clearly worded, yet not all-inclusive, catalogue of sample unfair competition practices.

In the context of intellectual property protection it is of great practical significance that an inventor’s or author’s product may be granted protection from imitation by third parties. This is also known as supplementary unfair competition protection and even applies when the object in question cannot or can no longer claim the intellectual property protection provided by a patent, utility model or design. Even though an imitation of products of third parties is principally allowed when these cannot claim intellectual property protection, in certain circumstances there may be sufficient evidence to prove that the intentions of the imitator were to deceive. This may especially be true in the following cases:

  • Direct takeover of a third party’s ideas
  • Takeover of ideas through imitation
  • Avoidable misrepresentation of origin
  • Imitations of marks and packaging
  • Sale of not imitated but similar goods and services
  • Systematic and purposeful imitation
  • Insertion into a third party’s series
  • Exploitation of reputation
  • Subreption and breach of confidence

In a more general sense, competition law also includes the policies regulating competition restrictions such as contractual agreements (e.g. cartels, price fixing, etc.) as well as the policies regulating the activities of market leaders and business practices that restrict competition (e.g. laws against discrimination).