The freedom of imitation and its limits - a european perspective

Autor:Ansgar Ohly
Páginas:353-371
RESUMEN

En la mayoría de los países se mantiene el principio de que debe ser libre la imitación de productos no protegidos por derechos de propiedad intelectual. El artículo 11 (1) de la Ley española contra la competencia desleal incluso contiene una norma expresa en este sentido. Por otro lado, entre jueces y abogados existe la extendida intuición de que es desleal «recoger una cosecha sin haber... (ver resumen completo)

 
EXTRACTO GRATUITO
THE FREEDOM OF IMITATION
AND ITS LIMITS - A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE
ANSGAR OHLY*
RESUMEN
En la mayoría de los países se mantiene el principio de que debe ser libre la
imitación de productos no protegidos por derechos de propiedad intelectual. El artícu-
lo 11 (1) de la Ley española contra la competencia desleal incluso contiene una norma
expresa en este sentido. Por otro lado, entre jueces y abogados existe la extendida
intuición de que es desleal «recoger una cosecha sin haber sembrado». De ahí que en
muchos países los tribunales tengan una tendencia a ensalzar retóricamente la libertad
de imitación mientras que un poco contradictoriamente conceden protección basada
en conceptos como el engaño del consumidor o la apropiación indebida de la imagen.
Este artículo abordará la situación legal en Europa partiendo del Derecho comunitario.
Se analizarán tres categorías: (1) la imitación que causa confusión, (2) la imitación que
se aprovecha deslealmente de la reputación de otro operador económico, y (3) la
«imitación servil» sin factores adicionales de deslealtad.
Palabras clave: competencia desleal, libertad de imitación, confusión por
imitación, apropiación indebida, imitación servil.
ABSTRACT
Many jurisdictions subscribe to the principle that the imitation of products unpro-
tected by intellectual property should be free. Art. 11 (1) of the Spanish Act against
Unfair Competition even contains an explicit statement to this effect. On the other hand
there is a widespread intuition among judges and lawyers that «reaping without sow-
ing» is unfair. Hence courts in many jurisdictions have a tendency to pay rhetorical tri-
bute to the freedom of imitation while nevertheless granting protection based on
notions of consumer deception or misappropriation of image. This article will explore
the legal situation in Europe, starting from European Community law. Three categories
will be analysed: (1) imitation which causes confusion, (2) imitation which takes unfair
advantage of another trader’s reputation and (3) «slavish imitation» without additional
factors of unfairness.
Keywords: unfair competition, freedom of imitation, confusion by imitation, misap-
propiation, slavisch imitacion.
*Dr. iur. (Munich), LL. M. (Cantab.), Professor of Civil Law and Intellectual Property Law at
the University of Bayreuth (ansgar.ohly@uni-bayreuth.de), Visiting Professor at the University of
Oxford. This article is based on a paper presented by the author at the ATRIP Congress 2008 in
Munich. It will also be published in the conference proceedings: KUR (ed.), Can One Size Fit All?,
Edward Elgar, 2010.
ADI
29 (2008-2009): 353-372
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SUMARIO: I. GRETCHENS QUESTION.—II. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTYAND THE FREEDOM OF IMITATION: THE NEED
FOR A FAIR BALANCE.—III. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTYAND UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW.—1. TOWARDSA EURO-
PEAN PERSPECTIVE.—2. CONSUMER DECEPTION.—3. EXPLOITATION OR TARNISHMENT OF PRODUCT IMAGE.—
IV.SLAVISH IMITATION.—V. CONCLUSION.
I. GRETCHEN’S QUESTION
In Goethe’s drama «Faust» Gretchen asks Dr. Faustus: «Now tell
me: how do you take religion»? 1Gretchen’s question is naïve, but also
fundamental, directly to the point, and it is answered in an evasive way.
If we try to rephrase Gretchen’s question in relation to intellectual pro-
perty law, it might be: «Now tell me: how about imitation?» What
sounds like a question asked by a student in an introductory course is in
fact a fundamental issue about which there is a surprising degree of dis-
agreement.
If imitation is unfair, it follows that intellectual property protection
against misappropriation is appropriate, even where there is no evi-
dence that such protection is beneficial for society. The protection of
well-known marks against dilution and misappropriation of goodwill,
for example, can easily be justified. Overlaps between intellectual pro
perty rights are generally acceptable, and unfair competition law can be
relied on in order to fill gaps between intellectual property rights. If,
however, imitation is a necessary and welcome process in a market
economy, the argumentative threshold for justifying intellectual proper-
ty rights is significantly higher. Broad anti-dilution laws, for example,
are more difficult to justify because consumer interests are only mar-
ginally affected and because there is no evident need to create incen-
tives for the creation of luxury images. Overlaps between intellectual
property rights can be worrying where the accumulation of rights can
undermine exceptions 2. Seen from this perspective, the area between
intellectual property rights should not be referred to as a «gap» but
rather as a free space which should not be restricted by unfair competi-
tion law.
Two diametrically opposite positions can be distinguished. Accor-
ding to one view, «reaping without sowing» is unfair. The classical
exposition of this attitude can be found in the opinion of the US
Supreme Court in INS v. AP:
354 A. OHLY. The freedom of imitation and its limits - a european perspective
1F. I. GOETHE, Marthens Garten, verse 3415.
2Cf. on this issue Graeme DINWOODIE, «Copyright, Trademark and Trade Dress: The Overlap
(and Conflict?) in Intellectual Property Regimes Concerning Designs and Visual Images», in J. C.
GINSBURG and J. M. BESEK (eds.) (2001), Adjuncts and Alternatives to Copyright, New York, ALAI-
USA, pp. 498 et seq.; A. KUR, «Exceptions to Protection Where Copyright and Trademarks Overlap»,
in Ginsburg and Besek, ibid., pp. 594 et seq.; A. OHLY, «Areas of Overlap Between Trade Mark
Rights, Copyright and Design Rights in German Law», GRUR Int. 2007, pp. 704 et seq.; A. QUAED-
VLIEG, «Overlap/relationships between copyright and other intellectual property rights», in E. DER-
CLAYE (ed.) (2009), Research Handbook on the Future of EU Copyright, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar,
pp. 408 et seq.
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