Federal Trade Commission Holds Conference on Campus

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The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division kicked off a series of public hearings on competition and intellectual property law yesterday that will continue through Feb. 28 at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Commission coordinators said they were "pleased" after the first day of the four-day conference that has drawn some of the top economic and business minds in the country.

The conference, called "Economic Perspectives and Real-World Experiences with Patents" is normally held in Washington, but the commission decided to hold it at UC Berkeley this year because of the university's academic reputation, said Susan DeSanti, the commission's Deputy General Counsel for Policy Studies.

"There's a lot of innovation out here," DeSanti said. "(UC Berkeley) is an area of very fertile academic thought."

The purpose of the forums, DeSanti said, is to trade and discuss ideas.

"We've held these types of hearings in the past, and not necessarily did any new policy or initiative come about," DeSanti said. "We are here to listen and to learn."

Participants of the conference's first day said they were pleased with what they heard.

"We want to get outside the belt way," said Hal Varian, dean of the School of Information and Management Systems. "This discussion, in this setting, allowed for that."

First-day speakers focused on the effects of monopolies on markets, along with the need for intellectual property protection.

Intellectual property protection is increasingly important for competition, said Matthew Linde, a researcher at the hearings.

Those who spoke agreed that monopolies inhibit innovation and must be restricted.

The first three speeches, given by UC Berkeley professors Richard Gilbert, Daniel Rubinfeld, and Howard Shelanski, concentrated on the relationship between competition and innovation.

The first day of the panel started with four presentations, followed by a forty-five-minute discussion and then another set of presentations and discussion.

Tuesday, the conference will examine pharmaceuticals and biotechnology from a business perspective, focusing on the role of patents.

Wednesday, a panel will discuss the role of patents in the software and internet industries.


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