Slavish imitation (2013)

Patent rights, as with many other intellectual property rights, are valid for a limited period of time. The idea behind this limitation in time is to strike the right balance between the reward and incentive for investors on the one hand, and the need for competition on the other. After the lapse of the patent, competitors should be free to use the invention in any form. This application can take the form of an exact copy of the most famous application of the patent by the former patent owner himself. This should be permissible and is, in fact, the whole idea behind the time limitation regarding validity of the patent. However, especially with products which have been patented and have become famous or even iconic, exact copying can be perceived as parasitic and/or confusing to the public. Rights owners often try to prolong their monopoly with successful products either through trademark law or through unfair competition law. An attempt to prolong the protection of the three-headed shaver by Philips is an example of the former. This contribution is largely dedicated to the latter, namely protection against copying on the basis of unfair competitionof famous products, for which the patent protection has lapsed.  Slavish imitation, freedom of competition and the Lego brick. In: Broek B. van den, Dack S., Eijsvogels F., Hirschfeld A. (Eds.) Willem Hoyng Litigator. Amsterdam: deLex, 2013. p.282-300.