International and Comparative Intellectual Property Law

Course Description: 

Despite the fundamental role played in international commerce, intellectual property rights (IPRs) remain creatures of national law. Thus, the eligibility, scope and term of protection awarded to patents, trademarks and copyright may vary from country to country, while national courts ensure their enforcement according to the traditional territoriality principle. However, since the end of the 19th century, the rampant market globalization had made impossible for IPRs owners to rely only on national laws. As a reaction, governments were driven to enter into a number of international treaties and conventions, providing minimum standard of IP protection and enforcement to be implemented by each Member State, and recognizing an array of general principles to regulate cross-border IP relations. With the advent of the Internet and other new technologies, the process of standardization of IPRs has dramatically increased its pace, leading to the formation of a new complex subject known as international intellectual property system. This course aims to cover its major topics and problematic issues, offering at the same time a comparative analysis of its national implementations.

The course starts with a general overview on the characteristics of the three main forms of intellectual property (patent, trademark, copyright), highlighting the meaning and effects of the territoriality principle. Next, it couples the analysis of the various international treaties governing the protection and enforcement of patent, copyright and trademark law with a comparative study of national judicial decisions, focusing on areas still characterized by the adoption of non-harmonized solutions (e.g. software, databases, biotechnological inventions, moral rights, divergent terms and requirements of protection etc.). Attention is also devoted to choice of law issues, the enforcement of IPRs on the Internet, and the mechanisms of international dispute settlement. Last, it looks at the particularities of international, regional and national exhaustion, and completes the overview with selected snapshots of unsettled international IP issues.

Learning Outcomes: 

Ability to understand general rules and principles of IP protection within the framework of the major international treaties and conventions.

Ability to make a proper distinction between the national, regional and international instruments of protection and enforcement of IP rights, to understand the principle of territoriality and to solve conflicts of law and jurisdictional problems.

Ability to explain the effects of the international harmonization of intellectual property on national laws, and to identify the areas still characterized by divergent national solutions.


The final grade is based on class-participation [20%], a written assignment [40%], and a written final exam [40%]. Students are expected to complete the reading assignments before each session, and to make regular and meaningful contributions to class discussion. The written assignment consists in an individual research to be completed and submitted on the Moodle at the end of the mid-term break. More detailed instructions will be provided in the “Memo for the Individual Assignment”, which will be posted on the Moodle at the beginning of the course. The final examination is a two-hour closed book in-class exam, with two short-answer questions and one case study.