Revision of the EU Competition Rules on Cooperation in Research & Development and Production: Scope for Further Improvement

Axel Gutermuth, Sep 15, 2010

As part of the pending revision of the EU competition rules on horizontal cooperation agreements, the EU Commission has proposed significant amendments to the two block exemption regulations covering research and development agreements  and specialization agreements as well as changes to the corresponding chapters of the Horizontal Guidelines. The proposed amendments aim to improve the existing framework of assessment rather than to radically change it. This has been largely achieved by the Commission expanding, simplifying, and clarifying the application of the two block exemption regulations and by aligning the text of the relevant chapters of the Horizontal Guidelines with the approach expressed in other recent Commission guidance documents, such as the Horizontal Merger Guidelines and the General Guidelines (previously referred to as the Article 81(3) Guidelines).

However, there remains scope for further improvement before the final versions of the revised texts are adopted later this year. This article identifies 10 aspects where, in the author’s view, the Commission’s proposed amendments should be further clarified or dropped in order to reach a sound competition policy solution and enhance legal certainty. As decisions and judgments of European competition authorities and courts assessing R&D and production agreements under EU competition law are scarce, clarity of the block exemption regulations and the relevant chapters of the Horizontal Guidelines is of particular importance.