Trending: Call for Papers Volume 4 | Issue 3: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]



This paper looks into the intricate relationship between Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and competition law, tracing their conceptual evolution and highlighting their interface. Beginning with an exploration of the historical roots and conceptual underpinnings of both IPR and competition law, it elucidates their evolution and the divergent paths they have taken. The interface between IPR and competition law is examined in depth, focusing on how these legal frameworks interact, intersect, and sometimes clash in modern markets. The paper analyses the complementary and conflicting dynamics between IPR and competition law, shedding light on their impact on innovation, market competition, and consumer welfare. Thisresearch contributes to a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between IPR and competition law, offering insights into how these frameworks can be reconciled to promote innovation, safeguard competition, and enhance consumer welfare in an increasingly interconnected global economy.

Keywords – Intellectual Property Law, Competition Law, IPR, Interference, TRIPS, Legal Intersection.

“Competition law and IPR are two sides of the same coin, each essential for fostering innovation and ensuring a level playing field in the marketplace.”


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and competition law are often viewed as opposing factors, but they share a mutual relationship to foster innovation and safeguard consumer welfare. While IPR grants creators exclusive rights to their innovations, competition law seeks to prevent monopolistic behaviour and promote fair market competition. These legal regimes ultimately converge in pursuing economic development and technological progress.

IPR encompasses various legal protections such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs, and trade secrets. These rights allow creators to control the use and commercial exploitation of their innovations for a limited period. However, granting such exclusivity can lead to market distortions and hinder competition if abused.[1]

Competition law, conversely, is designed to ensure a level playing field in the marketplace by prohibiting anti-competitive practices and monopolistic behaviour. It aims to maximise consumer welfare and promote efficiency in production by fostering innovation, encouraging market entry, and preventing the abuse of market power.

At first glance, IPR and competition law may appear at odds. IPR grants monopolies to innovators, while competition law seeks to dismantle monopolies. However, upon deeper examination, it can be understood that these legal frameworks serve complementary roles in achieving societal objectives.

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO), provides a framework for harmonising intellectual property regulations at the international level. It acknowledges the potential for abuse of intellectual property rights. It allows member states to take measures to prevent such mistreatment while balancing the interests of rights holders and promoting innovation.

One such measure permitted under TRIPS is granting compulsory licenses, which allow for patented inventions without the patent holder’s consent under certain circumstances, such as public health emergencies or anti-competitive practices. TRIPS also provides for the creation of limited exceptions to patent rights to address abusive practices in acquiring and exploiting intellectual property.

The harmonious coexistence of IPR and competition law is essential for fostering innovation, promoting competition, and maximising consumer welfare. By striking the right balance between incentivising innovation and preventing anti-competitive behaviour, these legal regimes can contribute to economic development, technological progress, and overall societal welfare. As such, policymakers and regulators must continue to refine and adapt these legal frameworks to address emerging challenges in the digital age while upholding the principles of fairness, competition, and innovation.

Evolution of IPR and Competition Law

The intersection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and competition law has evolved significantly over time, transitioning from two distinct areas of regulation to one governing market dynamics. Initially, IPR laws primarily focused on protecting the rights of creators and innovators, while competition laws aimed to ensure fair market practices and prevent monopolistic behaviours. However, contemporary perspectives recognise the connection between these two domains, emphasising their roles in promoting consumer welfare and technological innovation.

IPR laws serve as a mechanism to balance the rights of creators with broader societal interests in trade and commerce. They provide legal protection for intangible assets such as patents, trademarks, and creative works, safeguarding them against unauthorised use. IPR laws incentivise innovation and foster consumer choice in the marketplace by granting exclusive rights to creators.

Industrial properties and copyrights represent two key categories under IPR, covering various creations, from inventions to artistic works. These laws protect the rights of creators and regulate the use of their intellectual assets in commercial activities, ensuring a fair and competitive marketplace.

On the other hand, competition law is concerned with regulating the market to promote competition and prevent anti-competitive practices. It addresses monopolies, unfair trade practices, and market distortions to protect consumer interests and maintain a level playing field for businesses.

IPR laws emerged in response to the Industrial Revolution, which saw a surge in scientific innovations and creative works. The need to protect the rights of creators against unauthorised copying led to the development of IPR frameworks at both national and international levels. Similarly, competition laws originated in the late 19th century, initially with the Sherman Antitrust Act in the United States, aimed at curbing the power of giant trusts and promoting fair competition.

In India, the evolution of competition law can be traced back to constitutional provisions aimed at ensuring social justice and equitable distribution of wealth. The Competition Act of India was formulated to prevent unreasonable monopolies and promote a competitive market environment conducive to economic growth and societal welfare.

The connection between IPR and competition law underscores their complementary roles in fostering innovation, protecting consumer interests, and ensuring a fair and competitive marketplace for all stakeholders. Through effective regulation and enforcement, these laws contribute to modern economies while balancing the rights of creators with broader societal goals.

Interface between IPR and Competition Law

The interface between Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Competition Law presents a complex yet mutual relationship within legal frameworks worldwide, including India. Both systems aim to foster innovation, protect consumer welfare, and ensure fair market competition. Despite their seemingly contradictory nature, they share common objectives and complement each other in achieving dynamic market growth.[2]

One crucial aspect of this interaction isrecognising how IPRs, including patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets, provide exclusive rights to innovators, fostering creativity and incentivising invention. While appearing monopolistic in the short term, this exclusivity promotes long-term innovation and diverse product offerings, ultimately benefiting consumers. However, competition law prevents abuse of these rights, ensuring that monopolies do not stifle market competition or lead to consumer detriment. Moreover, as influenced by agreements like the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the global landscape underscores the importance of balancing IPR protection with competition concerns. India’s legislative journey exemplifies this balancing act with the Competition Act of 2002, recognising the need to safeguard IPRs while preventing anticompetitive behaviour.

This delicate balance is reflected in exceptions within competition law for IPRs, acknowledging their role in fostering innovation. However, it’s crucial to prevent the misuse of IPRs to stifle competition, as seen in cases of unreasonable licensing terms or abuse of dominant market positions. India’s legal framework strives to address these complexities, albeit with ongoing debates and refinements, as evidenced by the nuanced considerations within the Competition Act regarding IPRs. Moving forward, the harmonisation of IPR protection and competition principles remains a focal point, both domestically and internationally. India’s proactive engagement in forums like the WTO reflects its commitment to evolving legal frameworks that balance promoting innovation and ensuring market competitiveness.

  1. Achieving Regulatory Objectives Locally

The foundation of Indian competition law can be traced back to constitutional provisions aimed at promoting social justice and preventing the concentration of wealth. This culminated in the enactment of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act, 1969, influenced by international legislation. The push for a new competition law began with the recommendation of an Expert Group following the 1996 WTO Ministerial Declaration. Recognising competition policy as vital for economic liberalisation, the group proposed a fresh law, leading to the drafting of the Competition Act of 2002. [3]

The Competition Act, enacted shortly before India’s TRIPS compliance deadline, reflects the country’s commitment to fulfilling its international obligations. Under Section 3, the Competition Commission is empowered to scrutinise agreements deemed anti-competitive, with avoidance as a potential consequence. However, the Act includes a blanket exception for Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) under Section 3(5), acknowledging the need to safeguard innovation incentives. Nonetheless, it prohibits unreasonable conditions disguised as IPR protection, ensuring competitive pricing, quantities, and qualities of products.[4]

Despite the Act’s provisions, concerns arise regarding the balance between IPR protection and competition policy. The Act’s treatment of IPRs under Section 3(5) differs from the original recognition by the High-Level Committee, neglecting issues like exhaustion, parallel importation, or compulsory licensing.[5] Consequently, anticompetitive practices related to IPRs must be addressed through the “abuse of dominant position” clause in Section 4.[6]

Section 3 deviates from MRTP Commission precedent, which allowed complaints related to IPRs under the old Act. Arguments also highlight the Act’s emphasis on protecting IPR holders over public interest and the absence of power to restrict holders from imposing reasonable conditions on licensees. While the Act identifies, per se, illegal practices like price fixing and market divisions, its broad treatment of these categories suggests a high threshold for proving adverse effects on competition.

While the Competition Act of 2002 represents India’s commitment to fostering competition and preventing anticompetitive practices, concerns persist regarding its treatment of IPRs and the balance between protecting rights holders and promoting competition in the market.[7]

  1. International Forums and Cooperation in Competition Policy

At international forums, India put forth three proposals related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and competition law during the WTO Ministerial Conference 1999. The first proposal focused on technology transfer, urging developed nations to incentivise enterprises to facilitate technology transfer to developing countries, as mandated under Article 66(2). India emphasised the importance of environmentally friendly technology as a starting point for promoting fair and favourable transfer. India also supported further study of TRIPS provisions, including Article 40, to identify areas for enhancing technology transfer.

The second proposal aimed to harmonise approaches to utilising living resources, addressing conflicts between the TRIPS Agreement and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. India proposed additional conditions on patent applications under Article 29 of TRIPS and advocated harmonising national laws to reconcile these differences.

India advocated for higher protection for Geographical Indications (GIs), highlighting the discrepancy under Article 23 of TRIPS, which extends protections only to wines and spirits. India urged members to expedite and broaden the benefits of ongoing work initiated by the TRIPS Council.

While the first two proposals require ongoing international efforts, the third proposal concerning GI protection aligns with India’s domestic competition law, which currently lacks adequate protection for GIs. Having adopted relevant TRIPS standards under Section 22 of its GI Act, 1999, India should consider incorporating unfair competition practices related to GIs into its competition law enforcement, as there is currently no agency to ensure enforcement of Section 22.[8]

India also faces challenges in exercising discretion under Article 31 regarding granting compulsory licenses, with potential negative impacts on research and development (R&D) and innovation. Harmonising the current competition law, which considers technical advantages, including IPRs, when evaluating dominant market positions, with standards for granting compulsory licenses outlined in Article 31 of TRIPS is crucial. Specifying concrete circumstances for granting compulsory licenses or aligning with conditions in Article 31 would enhance clarity and consistency in India’s approach to mandatory licensing.[9]

  1. Regulatory Framework for Competition in India

Enforcement laws about Intellectual Property (IP) in India encompass various legal frameworks and procedures. These laws are predominantly enforced through civil and penal remedies as outlined in the Civil Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code. The enforcement procedures are delineated by the rules of practice observed in trial courts, High Courts, and the Supreme Court of India. India adheres to the common law tradition, where judicial precedents, particularly decisions of the Supreme Court, carry binding authority over the lower judiciary.

In addition to common law enforcement mechanisms, IP laws in India incorporate statutory enforcement provisions. Corresponding rules and regulations bolster these laws. Notably, India has enacted several significant Intellectual Property legislations, each supported by its rules. For instance, the geographical indications rules outline administrative procedures for registering and enforcing geographical indications.

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Act of 2000, introduced to protect semiconductor integrated circuit layout designs, was supplemented by regulations published in the official gazette on December 11, 2001. These regulations provide the necessary administrative framework for the implementation of the Act. Furthermore, the Information Technology Act of 2000 assumes significance in addressing the intersection between information technology and intellectual property rights. It is pivotal in governing areas where information technology interfaces with IP concerns.

To conclude, the interface between IPRs and Competition Law represents a dynamic interplay between fostering innovation and preventing market abuse. Through careful legislation and ongoing dialogue, India and other nations seek to navigate these complexities, ultimately promoting economic growth and consumer welfare in an increasingly interconnected world.[10]

Conflict between IPR and Competition Law

IPRs and competition policy are often seen as having conflicting goals. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) inherently grant innovators legal exclusivity, essentially monopolies, within defined boundaries. This seems contradictory to the principles of fair market access and a level playing field advocated by competition regulations, which aim to limit restraints on both horizontal and vertical levels and prevent the abuse of dominant market positions.

The grant of legal monopoly through IPRs can lead to market power and, in some cases, even full-fledged monopolies as defined by competition laws, especially when there are no substitutes available in the relevant market. However, it’s essential to note that possessingIPRs doesn’t automatically confer market dominance. Instead, it’s the abuse of such dominance that competition laws prohibit. In certain instances, alternative technologies may serve as adequate substitutes, constraining the potential monopoly behaviour of IPR holders.

Despite these apparent conflicts, there are areas where IPRs and competition policies complement each other. By safeguarding innovators’ rights to exclude others from using their ideas or expressions, IPRsincentivise technological innovation and artistic expression. This fosters competition in future markets and promotes dynamic efficiency, characterised by improved quality and diversity of goods – objectives shared by competition policy.

IPRs and competition policies play crucial roles in fostering innovation and ensuring competitive exploitation. Their coexistence promotes economic growth and maintains a fair and vibrant marketplace.

Balancing Innovation and Fair Market Practices

Intellectual property (IP) encompasses various creations starting from human intellect, including inventions, artistic works, and commercial symbols. It encompasses patents, copyrights, trademarks, and similar rights, safeguarding commercially valuable products. These rights grant holders the authority to prevent others from exploiting their intangible assets. IP is divided into industrial property, covering inventions and trademarks, and copyright, which includes literary and artistic works. This extends to performances, recordings, and broadcasts. On the other hand, competition law is focused on fostering market competition and curbing unfair trade practices and monopolistic abuse. Its primary objectives are safeguarding consumer welfare and promoting a healthy competitive environment.

The Competition Act of 2002 in India prohibits anti-competitive agreements by IP rights holders, recognising the potential conflict between IP rights and competition policies. The act empowers the Competition Commission of India to penalise those misusing their dominant market position or engaging in anti-competitive agreements. Market power resulting from IP rights and the adverse effects of their anti-competitive exercise are significant concerns for competition law. This includes inflated prices and hindered innovation, ultimately limiting productivity and sustainable growth. The tension between IP rights, which can lead to monopolies, and competition law, designed to counteract them, highlights the complexity of their interaction.[11]

To oversee the monopolistic tendencies of IP rights, competition laws often incorporate measures such as parallel imports and compulsory licensing. Compulsory licensing allows the state to authorise the surrender of exclusive IP rights, while parallel imports involve bringing goods into a country without the IP holder’s consent. Both mechanisms aim to mitigate the adverse effects of IP monopolies.

Innovation is pivotal in economic growth, driving healthy competition and benefiting both macro and microeconomic levels. IP laws protect innovations from unlawful exploitation, emphasising the need for a mutual relationship between IP and competition laws. Both policies share the common goal of promoting innovation while ensuring consumer welfare.[12] Achieving a balance between these laws is crucial for fostering economic development without sacrificing public interests.

Innovation and Economic Growth

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are crucial pillars in today’s economy, especially in rapid technological advancements. They were initially introduced with the belief that they are indispensable for fostering further industrial and economic progress. Economists argue that without IPRs, a phenomenon known as the free rider problem would emerge. This scenario suggests that few would be incentivised to invest in such activities if everyone could freely utilise the outcomes of innovative and creative endeavours. This lack of incentive stems from the fear of being at a competitive disadvantage.

The competition relies on protecting products from human ingenuity through property rights. IPRs, characterised by their exclusive monopolistic nature, are also transferable and marketable commodities, as they can be bought and sold individually. While IPRs grant a monopoly to the holder, it’s essential to note that this monopoly is not absolute and is limited in duration. Moreover, IPRs face competition from similar products, trademarks, and substitute technologies, mitigating the possibility of monopolistic rents. In most cases, profits derived from the exclusive use of inventions are not monopolistic, except when a groundbreaking invention temporarily lacks substitutes.

It’s crucial to understand that IPRs do not guarantee automatic profitability to their owners; their value depends on market demand and competitive dynamics. Therefore, ownership of intangibles through abstract property rights only imposes a temporary competitive restriction. The profitability of IPRs is contingent upon the market’s recognition and acceptance of the innovation’s merits. Thus, IPRs provide exclusive rights but rarely confer an absolute monopoly, as competitors often influence the holder.

If IPRsdo not provide a short-term monopoly, competitors might refrain from investing in innovation and creationinstead of waiting for others to take the risk. This behaviour would undermine economic efficiency and stifle innovation, which is essential for fostering growth and prosperity in a competitive free-market economy.

IPRs play a crucial role in incentivising investment in research and development by assuring individuals and enterprises of property rights in the outcomes of their efforts. Granting these rights to those who can economically maximise profits ensures that creators and inventors are motivated to contribute to economic progress.[13]

Case Laws

  1. In Microsoft Corp. v. Commission 2007, the European Commission found Microsoft guilty of leveraging its dominant market position by bundling Windows Media Player with its Windows operating system, impeding competition in the media player sector. Despite Microsoft’s claims of the legality of bundling its software, the case underscored the necessity of preventing misuse of intellectual property rights to stifle market competition.
  2. Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. 2018[14] revolved around allegations of patent infringement, sparking debates on the delicate balance between patent protection and market competition. Apple accused Samsung of infringing on its design patents, while Samsung argued that such features were essential for competition in the smartphone industry. The case highlighted the importance of balancing safeguarding intellectual property rights and promoting innovation through healthy market competition.
  3. Qualcomm Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission 2019[15]centred on Qualcomm’s licensing practices for its essential patents related to wireless communication standards. The Federal Trade Commission accused Qualcomm of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by imposing unfair licensing terms and refusing to license its technology to competitors. This case brought to light critical issues regarding the intersection of intellectual property rights and competition law, particularly concerning standard-essential patents.
  4. Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. 2021[16], Google faced allegations of copyright infringement for using Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in its Android operating system. Oracle, the owner of Java, argued that Google’s actions violated its copyright. This case raised questions regarding the extent of copyright protection for software and the applicability of fair use exceptions. It also sheds light on the ongoing debate surrounding the balance between copyright protection and fostering competition in the software industry.


Competition authorities must balance competition policy and intellectual property laws to avoid conflicts that could harm society. While exemptions in competition laws for intellectual property rights (IPRs) are essential, they should allow for a case-by-case assessment to prevent violations. Drafting IPRs concerning competition provisions ensures their coexistence. IPRs and competition laws foster innovation and economic growth while safeguarding consumer welfare. Although IPRs grant temporary monopolies, they incentivise innovation and eventual dissemination of knowledge. In conclusion, IPRs and competition law complement each other, with competition laws acting as checks on potential monopolistic abuses of IPRs.


  1. https://gnlu.ac.in/Content/gnlu/pdf/phd-programme/7-Silky-Mukherjee-Synopsis.pdf
  2. https://www.cuts-international.org/pdf/viewpointpaper-IPRs-CompPolicy.pdf
  3. https://www.lakshmisri.com/Media/Uploads/Documents/Interface%20between%20Competition%20Law%20and%20Intellectual%20Property%20Laws%20-%20INDIAN%20PERSPECTIVE.pdf
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50853381_Intellectual_Property_Law_Competition_Law/link/553c74a40cf245bdd7668a98/download?_tp=eyJjb250ZXh0Ijp7ImZpcnN0UGFnZSI6InB1YmxpY2F0aW9uIiwicGFnZSI6InB1YmxpY2F0aW9uIn19
  6. Jain, S., & Tripathy, S. “Intellectual Property and Competition Laws: Jural Correlatives,” 12 Journal of Intellectual Property Rights (2007), 236-243
  7. Dutta, R. “Critical Analysis: Reflection of IP in Competition Law of India” (August 11, 2010)
  8. The Committee noted that IPRs provide exclusive rights to their holders to undertake commercial activities, but this does not include the right to exert restrictive or monopoly power in a market/society. See S.M. Dugar, Commentary on the MRTP LAW, Competition Law & Consumer Protection Law- Law, Practices and Procedures: Volume 1 (2006), at 757.
  9. Kochiapalli, M. “Competition Bill in India: The Nexus with IP,” September 22, 2007 (August 17, 2010)
  10. Mehta, P. S., & Kumar, U. “Tackling IPR Excuses through the New Competition Law,” Financial Express, June 12, 2001 (August 17, 2010).
  11. Ghosh, R., Dr. Shova Devi. “Interplay between Intellectual Property Rights and Competition Law in India,”
  12. Asher, A. “A Public Lecture on ‘Interface between the Indian Competition Act 2002 and the IPR Laws in India’,” Friday, 29 May 2009, 3 PM to 5 PM, Federation House, FICCI, New Delhi (August 18, 2010).
  13. Galler, P. E. “International Intellectual Property Conflicts Of Law And Internet Remedies,” (August 19, 2010). Available at: http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/3620/1/JIPR%2010%282%29%20133-140.pdf
  14. Holyyoak, S., &Torremans. “Intellectual Property Law,” 2008 (Oxford University Press) at 231

[1]Atul Patel, “Intellectual Property Law & Competition Law,” (2011), available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50853381_Intellectual_Property_Law_Competition_Law


[3]  Dutta, R. “Critical Analysis: Reflection of IP in Competition Law of India” (August 11, 2010).

[4] Jain, S., & Tripathy, S. “Intellectual Property and Competition Laws: Jural Correlatives,” 12 Journal of Intellectual Property Rights (2007), 236-243.

[5] The Committee noted that IPRs provide exclusive rights to their holders to undertake commercial activities but this does not include the right to exert restrictive or monopoly power in a market/society. See S.M. Dugar, Commentary on the MRTP LAW, Competition Law & Consumer Protection Law- Law, Practices and Procedures: Volume 1 (2006), at 757.

[6]Kochiapalli, M. “Competition Bill in India: The Nexus with IP,” September 22, 2007 (August 17, 2010).

[7] Mehta, P. S., & Kumar, U. “Tackling IPR Excuses through the New Competition Law,” Financial Express, June 12, 2001 (August 17, 2010).

[8] Chakravarthy, S., Dr. “Competition Policy and Intellectual Property Rights,”  (August 14, 2010).

[9] Mehta, P. S., & Kumar, U. “Need for Clearer Norms on IPR in New Competition Bill,” The Financial Express, June 13, 2001 (August 18, 2010)

[10] Ghosh, R., Dr. Shova Devi. “Interplay between Intellectual Property Rights and Competition Law in India,”

[11]Asher, A. “A Public Lecture on ‘Interface between the Indian Competition Act 2002 and the IPR Laws in India’,” Friday, 29 May 2009, 3PM to 5PM, Federation House, FICCI, New Delhi (August 18, 2010).

[12]Galler, P. E. “International Intellectual Property Conflicts Of Law And Internet Remedies,” (August 19, 2010). Available at: http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/3620/1/JIPR%2010%282%29%20133-140.pdf

[13]Holyyoak, S., &Torremans. “Intellectual Property Law,” 2008 (Oxford University Press) at 231.

[14]678 F.3d 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2012)

[15]969 F.3d 974 (9th Cir. 2020)

[16]141 S. Ct. 1183 (2021)