Intellectual Property in Modern Europe - Tracing the Expansion of a Concept

Project group "Legal Culture(s) of East Central Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries/Rechtskulturelle Prägungen Ostmitteleuropas in der Moderne", Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe/Geisteswissenschaftliches Zentrum Geschichte und Kultur Ostmitteleuropas an der Universität Leipzig (GWZO)
01.11.2012 - 03.11.2012
Augusta Dimou

The concept of intellectual property has developed into a major institution governing the national, international and transnational traffic and exchange of knowledge and (cultural) goods in the modern world. Framed at the intersection between the private and public sphere, the development of intellectual property rights reflects the diachronic wrangling to balance and regulate the access, distribution and diffusion of information and knowledge in modern societies. By the end of the 19th century, the leading Western European states had devised national legislations and partook in international organizations for the protection of intellectual property, whereas the majority of the newly created Southeast, East and East Central European states started to create domestic protection systems and got incorporated into the international system of intellectual property protection only at the dawn of the 20th century. Taking this observation as our starting point, the conference will examine the introduction and institutionalization of intellectual property (copyrights and patents) in Modern Europe from a comparative perspective.

By including a perspective of and from East Central and Southeast Europe, the conference seeks to develop a new comparative analytical framework for exploring the history of intellectual property in Modern Europe. The development of intellectual property in Southeast and East Central European States was initially shaped by growing international conformity pressure during the inter-war period. The establishment of socialist legal systems and cultures that followed after World War II promoted the abolishment of private property. Since 1989/1990 states in these regions and their societies are again under extreme transformation, adaptation and innovation pressure to (re-)individualise the protection of (intellectual) property. The (re-)establishment of a legal system that protects copyrights and patents, is not only seen as part of a legal and political transformation process but also as a necessary pre-condition for catch-up modernisation and a trigger for innovation.

The conference is organised by the project group “Legal Culture(s) of East Central Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries” / “Rechtskulturelle Prägungen Ostmitteleuropas in der Moderne” at the Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe / Geisteswissenschaftliches Zentrum Geschichte und Kultur Ostmitteleuropas e. V. an der Universität Leipzig (GWZO).

The project group investigates the legal culture(s) of East-Central Europe focusing on the history of material and immaterial property rights in agriculture, industry, culture and science. Legal culture is being analyzed by devoting special attention to land ownership, copyrights, patents and brands which are particularly controversial in the modernization processes since the late 1800s. The project is directed jointly by professors Dr. Stefan Troebst and Dr. Hannes Siegrist of the University of Leipzig. The project’s participants explore respectively the significance of the category “landownership” (Dr. Dietmar Müller), the protection of industrial property (Cindy Daase, M.A.) and the function and relevance of copyright (Dr. Augusta Dimou) in East Central Europe in the twentieth century. The group examines intellectual and industrial property rights focusing on processes of internationalization, transnational appropriation and local adaptation of legal doctrines, norms and institutions. Special attention is paid to the interplay between national, regional, transnational and global actors and institutions in the creation of normative orders.

We invite scholars working in the broader field of the humanities, social sciences, cultural studies and literature, legal scholars, experts in media and communication studies, economic historians as well as historians of science and technology to contribute to this conference with case and/or comparative studies as well as with theory focused papers. The call is open for established as well as young scholars and PhD students at an advanced stage of their PhD. We especially encourage scholars from Southeast and East Central Europe to submit paper abstracts. We envision the publication of selected contributions in an individual volume.

Proposed papers could address but are not limited to the following topics:
1. The transfer of legislation, concepts, norms and international standards and their “domesticization” in new contexts
2. The effect of intellectual property rights in modernisation and industrialisation processes, esp. on cultural and scientific developments
3. Law and its context: How do political, social, cultural and economic developments affect processes of legalization?
4. Formal and informal practices: What is the relationship between normative prescriptions and actual practice?
5. The role and connection of experts and/or lobby groups/associations in the institutionalization, popularization and enforcement of norms and standards on a national and international level (authors, publishers, international organizations, inventors, business associations etc.)
6. Framing and staging public discourses and debates on intellectual property
7. Philosophical and theoretical elaborations of the notions of “labour” and “property” and alternative conceptualizations regarding the “protection of ideas”
8. Real Socialism: Ideology and Intellectual Property, a change of doctrine and definitions of intellectual property?
9. Post-Communism and transformation: The end of ideology in the protection of intellectual property?
10. East – West comparison: Was the transfer of international (legal) norms to East Central and Southeast Europe a one-way street or were there cross references, reciprocal influences, and/or backslashes?
11. Intellectual property at a critical junction – new media / new inventions: Shifts in habits, marketing techniques, tastes and legislation
12. Standardization and Institutionalization: their role in the internal regulation of society and the state as well as in the regulation of international relations and transnational group interests

The conference will take place from 1st to 3rd November 2012 in Leipzig. Conference language is English.

Please send an abstract of not more than 500 words and a short biographical note of not more than 250 words not later than 20 February 2012 to Augusta Dimou ( and Cindy Daase ( Successful candidates will be informed by 30 March 2012
Please note: The conference papers will be due on 1st October 2012.
Travel costs and accommodation of the admitted panellists will be fully covered by the conveners.


Augusta Dimou

GWZO - Specks Hof, Reichsstr. 4-6, 04109 Leipzig
0341 9735585

Intellectual Property in Modern Europe - Tracing the Expansion of a Concept, 01.11.2012 – 03.11.2012 Leipzig, in: H-Soz-Kult, 09.12.2011, <>.