The interplay between intellectual property law and competition law- Similarities and Differences


This article has been authored by Riya

Intellectual property rights grant the owners exclusive legal rights, limiting others’ access to the same, and thus reducing market competition. Competition law/anti-trust law, on the other hand, seeks to promote competition and increase market access. As a result, we can see that these two topics are diametrically opposed. However, another school of thought holds that the two realms can not only coexist but also complement each other.

As a result, the goal of this article is to examine how IPR and competition law are linked and interdependent. This study focuses on the fact that in order to develop the country’s economic efficiency, both IPR and Competition Law must coexist, and this study provides guidelines to help improve the efficiency of the Indian system of Competition law and patent offices.

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Any discussion of the relationship between competition laws and intellectual property rights must start with a definition of these two terms. Intellectual Property Rights are intended to encourage inventors’ creativity by granting them certain rights over their inventions that protect their interests in them. These are exclusionary rights, which grant inventors temporary rights to exclude others from using their IPR. Competition law, on the other hand, exists to promote economic growth by restricting rights arising from private property in order to prevent anti-competitive behaviour.

Competition law seeks to preserve the competitive nature of markets because competition among market forces is critical in protecting consumers from abuse. In India, dominance is not a problem in terms of competition law; however, the abuse of that dominance is. Following liberalisation and privatisation, India has shifted to more open market policies that encourage more innovation and rapid economic growth. The Indian Competition Act was enacted in this context to preserve market competition for the benefit of consumers.

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It has been observed that IPR and competition law are incompatible. It is because IPR grants the innovators of a new product a monopoly that others do not have access to, or it simply protects those owners from commercial exploitation of their products by granting them exclusive legal rights. Competition law, on the other hand, is opposed to static market access and competition rules, specifically the abuse of monopoly position. As a result, it should be noted that the term “competition” is used differently by IPR and Competition Law.

The main goal of granting licences in IPR is to encourage competition among prospective innovators while simultaneously restricting competition in various ways. After a specified period, the rights revert to the public domain, effectively ending the competition. The primary goal of competition law is to prevent abusive market practices, stimulate and encourage market competition, and ensure that customers receive high-quality goods and services at a reasonable price.

According to a UNCTAD[1] document on ‘examining the interface between the objectives of competition policy and intellectual property,’ the main goal of IPR is to encourage innovation by providing appropriate incentives. This goal is met by granting inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for a set period of time, allowing them to recoup their R&D investments.

Instead, the goals of Competition Law are to promote efficiency, economic growth, and consumer welfare. To achieve them, competition law limits, to some extent, private property rights for the benefit of the community. Competition is thought to be beneficial to the economy because it fosters innovation and increases competitiveness.

Thus, we can say that IPR is about individual rights that provide monopoly only to the owner of the innovated product in order to protect his invention from commercial exploitation, whereas Commercial Law protects the interests of the market and the broader community, rather than an individual, by limiting private rights that may harm the community’s wellbeing and thus encourages market competitiveness. Despite the fact that they are diametrically opposed, their ultimate goal is consumer welfare.

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It is obvious that, at first glance, the goals of IPR and competition law appear to be at odds. They appear to be irreconcilable, with conflict and friction unavoidable. Whereas friction may be a part of the overlap between IPR and competition law, where they may clash in any case, the truth is that they also work in tandem. Their goals are aligned with their ultimate goal: to improve the welfare of consumers in society by facilitating market innovation.

They achieve this goal through various means. Whereas IPRs give innovators and producers monopoly rights to be adequately reimbursed for their research and development costs, competition law protects the rights of the entire community by limiting private rights, including those granted by IPRs, to ensure the market is free of anti-competitive behaviour, resulting in more innovation and better products for the consumer. In this way, IPRs and competition law ultimately serve to improve consumer welfare by facilitating innovation.

This goal of enabling innovation necessitates a balancing act of competition law to ensure that IPRs are not exploited and abused while still allowing enough room and incentives for a vibrant market for innovation and creativity.

The various sections which speak about the inevitable connection between IPR and competition law are:

Section 3(5) of the Indian Competition Act, 2002 exempts reasonable use of such inventions from the purview of competition law, implying that it only protects reasonable conditions imposed by the IPR holder and that any unreasonable condition imposed can be dealt with under competition law.

Section 4 of the Indian Competition Act, 2002, deals with abuse of dominant position, and it only prohibits abuse, not the mere existence of a dominant position. What is important to note for our current discussion is that no exception has been made for IPRs under this Section, possibly because IPRs do not confer dominant position in the market, and even if they do, this Section does not prohibit the mere existence of dominant position, but only the abuse of dominant position.

Section 4(2) of the Indian Competition Act, 2002, which treats enterprise action as abuse and applies equally to IPR holders,

Section (3) of the Indian Competition Act, 2002 prohibits anti-competitive practices, but this prohibition does not limit “any person’s right to restrain any infringement of, or to impose reasonable conditions necessary for protecting any of his rights” conferred by IPR laws such as the Copyright Act, 1956, the Patents Act, 1970, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (48 of 1999), and the Designs Act, 2000.[2]

To learn more about the intellectual property regime in India, enrol for Diploma in Intellectual Property: Law and Management. 


The conflict between competition policy and the regime of intellectual property rights has been most contentious in the context of patent laws. The methods used to achieve their mutual goals give rise to the interface between competition policy and patent law. On the one hand, competition policy requires that no unreasonable restraints on competition exist; on the other hand, patent laws reward the inventor with a temporary monopoly that protects him from competitive exploitation of his patented article.[3]

IPR protection is a tool for encouraging innovation, which benefits consumers by allowing for the development of new and improved goods and services, as well as promoting economic growth. It grants innovators the right to legitimately bar other parties from commercialising innovative products and processes based on that new knowledge for a limited time. In other words, the law provides innovators or IPR holders with a temporary monopoly to recover costs incurred during the research and innovation process. As a result, they earn just and reasonable profits, giving them an incentive to innovate.

Competition law, on the other hand, is critical in closing market gaps, disciplining anticompetitive practices, preventing monopoly abuse, inducing optimal resource allocation, and benefiting consumers with fair prices, a wider selection, and higher quality. As a result, it ensures that the dominant power associated with IPRs is not overcomplicated, leveraged, or extended to the detriment of competition. Furthermore, while competition law seeks to protect competition and the competitive process, which in turn encourages innovators to be the first in the market with a new product or service at a price and quality that consumers want, it also emphasizes the importance of stimulating innovation as competitive inputs, and thus works to improve consumer welfare.

Despite their differences, the two regimes tend to coexist on various grounds where both disciplines prevail by limiting each other’s rights. The interface between these two areas of law is widely anticipated in many sectors of the economy, including the pharmaceutical sector, where there is a lack of consumer knowledge, which gives rise to the problem of Pay for delay/Reverse delay settlements, discrimination in patient assistance programs, ever-greening of patents, and so on, and for which the concept of ‘Compulsory Licensing’ was addressed to draw the balance between intellectual property rights and competition law so that owners of intellectual property rights cannot abuse their privileges and stifle market competition by abusing their dominant position.

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In recent years, the EU and the US have received a large number of cases involving IPR and competition law disputes. However, there are very few cases in India involving IPR and Competition Law disputes; in fact, it is still in its infancy.[4] However, in Aamir Khan Productions vs. the Director-General[5], the court addressed the issue of competition law and intellectual property law for the first time. The Bombay High Court ruled in this case that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has jurisdiction to hear all IPR and competition law cases.

Conflicts over intellectual property rights (IPRs) were typically resolved before the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTP Commission), the predecessor to the Competition Commission. However, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which enforces The Competition Act, 2002 throughout India, now handles cases involving the applicability of competition issues to both IPR and Competition Law. This Commission was established on October 14, 2003, and it went into full operation in May 2009. The CCI is made up of a chairperson and six members.[6]

Entertainment Network (India) Pvt. Ltd. vs. Super Cassette Industries Ltd[7]. In this case, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of conflict between intellectual property rights and competition law. The Court observed that, even if the copyright holder has a complete monopoly, such a monopoly is limited if it disrupts the smooth operation of the market, which would violate Competition Law, and the same was true with the refusal of licence. Undoubtedly, intellectual property owners can reap the benefits of their innovations by issuing licences, but this is not an absolute.

To learn more about the intellectual property regime in India, enrol for Diploma in Intellectual Property: Law and Management. 


Competition Law and Intellectual Property Rights are inextricably linked, necessitating a balanced understanding to appreciate the true scope of their complex and multifaceted interactions in modern India’s dynamic markets. It cannot be denied that there is some necessary tension and friction in their overlap; where competition law seeks to prevent abuses that may arise as a result of monopolistic power, intellectual property rights seek, in many situations, to grant exactly such monopolistic powers to incentivize innovators to innovate. It is in the best interests of Indian society to have the two regimes operate in such a way that there is widespread competition while also providing enough protection for inventors to recoup their investments in research and development.

These two ends point to a single goal: consumer benefit through the facilitation of a robust environment for innovation. Greater innovation is enabled by organisations competing with one another to produce better and more affordable products and services, whereas IPRs enable greater innovation by providing greater incentives to innovators to benefit from their innovations.

In terms of jurisdiction, India would benefit greatly from greater maturity in the legislative framework governing the extent and scope of the CCI’s jurisdiction. Competition law should balance the IPR regime by imposing curbs wherever the exercise of IPRs exceeds “reasonable conditions,” as defined in Section 3(5) of the Indian Competition Act, 2002, but such curbs should not go beyond the extent to which the exercise of IPRs causes an appreciable adverse effect on competition.


[2] Conflict of IPR in Competition Law available at:

[3] The interface between IPR and competition law. Available at:

[4] Forrester Ian S. Competition Law and IPR: Ten years on the debate still flourishes, pdf.

[5] 2010 (112) Bom L R 3778.

[6] Competition Commission of India from

[7] 2008(5)OK 719