Intellectual property law has recently been undergoing explosive development, attracting many new spheres of general interest. Intellectual property law embraces various private property laws, and deals with exclusive rights to literary and artistic works, scientific and technological works and products, industrial designs, trade marks and other signs, and a number of related relationships. Intellectual property works are protected by statute under a number of separate, so called ‘exclusive rights statutes’, such as, for example, the Act on Copyright in Literary and Artistic Works, the Patents Act, the Registered Designs Act, the Business Names Act and the Trademarks Act. Protection against disloyal or unfair competition is usually encompassed by intellectual property law too. In the latter case it is not the question of an exclusive right, but of protection in an individual case, pursuant to the provisions of the Marketing Practices Act.

Intellectual property rights are highly relevant in the most intimate spheres of our lives today. Modern technology, as represented by computers and global digital networks, has made that issues such as copyright, trademarks and patens have become highly personal concerns of every man and woman. Is it lawful or unlawful to download the information from the cyberspace, or why should one not copy a computer program? Is a patent on genes equivalent to a patent on life? How shall a patent on prescription drugs be handled in the context of developing countries versus industrial countries? Must Feta Cheese necessarily come from Greece?

Intellectual property law has always been internationally oriented, with legal protection provided across national borders by a large number of international conventions. Modern technology, and especially the Internet, have made, however, that the global dimension has been invested with new manifestations. In a knowledge-intensive information society intellectual property has acquired a very high economic value, and if properly formulated, intellectual property rights can greatly promote innovativeness. Intellectual property rights play therefore an important role in international trade and economy. This domain is particularly exciting for young, active and curious researchers, which is why intellectual property law is highly ranked as a research subject in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. There is hardly any other field which has attracted so many young, talented and inquisitive jurists recently. One of the reasons for this is that intellectual property law forces one to respond to new challenges in the form of novel, unsolved problems arising all the time, and tackle many interesting questions coming from related areas, concerning such issues as freedom of information, cultural autonomy, global equality and sustainable development, to name just a few.

Maintaining the balance between sole rights and free competition, and between private and public interests is always a highly relevant issue in intellectual property law. It is important because the prerequisites for correct assessment are constantly changing due to new technical solutions and scientific breakthroughs. Stimulating private interests too vigorously will diminish the creativity of others, whereas promoting public interests too strongly will lead to a lack of inspiration and incentive for creative contributions to society. It is problems such as these that are considered in the on-going intellectual property law research projects. Whether they have to do with the formulation of sole rights in the form of individual signs, data bases, computer programs, literary or artistic works, industrial designs, bio-technical or other inventions, or whether they concern the development of effective consumer protection, the balance between extremities must always be maintained. How this is to be done, is another question.