Research team

Government and Law

Expertise

Esther van Zimmeren has particular expertise in Intellectual Property (IP) law, in particular in patent law, IP governance, innovation policy, technology transfer, competition law, contract law, European institutional and economic law and international trade law. Many of her research projects and publications are interdisciplinary, e.g. collaborations with geneticists, economists, physicists, engineers, philosophers, artists, designers, architects, urban planners, librarians and social and political scientists. She also has a special interest in empirical research (surveys, intervieiws, case studies). She is one of the founders of the Metropolitan Legal Lab, which is aimed at creating a forum for legal topics related to the Metropolitan City and to enable interdisciplinary debate and collaboration in this area. In addition, she is coordinator of the University of Antwerp Centre of Excellence GOVTRUST and a member of the interdisciplinary Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence ACTORE (Antwerp Consortium on the Organization of Rulemaking and Multi-level Governance in Europe) (in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences).

Assessing and Fostering Independence in Specialised International Courts. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

The independence of judicial institutions is one of the most debated issues in the context of the good administration of justice. Scholars have investigated mechanisms and principles fostering the independence of courts and developed sets of "indicators" to assess independence. Despite the vast literature on independence of generalist courts, a fundamental gap exists with respect to specialised courts. Specialised courts face different challenges. In fact, they may be more inclined to make decisions which favour their "mission". Moreover, specialised courts may be more easily influenced by interest groups. This project aims to provide a better understanding of judicial independence in the context of specialised international courts. Desk research will be combined with empirical research in order to identify indicators, mechanisms and guidelines to foster the independence of specialised courts. Additionally, I will provide concrete recommendations to strengthen the independence of the future Brussels International Business Court, Unified Patent Court and Multilateral Investment Court. Although these courts differ with respect to their goals, institutional designs and challenges, they are all subject to intense criticism due to the alleged insufficient guarantees of independence.

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Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe (TiGRE). 01/01/2020 - 30/06/2023

Abstract

TiGRE provides an encompassing and coherent analytical framework for the study of trust relationships in governance. It studies trust among actors of regulatory regimes, such as regulators, political, administrative and judicial bodies, the regulated industries, service providers and their interest organisations, consumers and other societal interests, as well as citizens at large. TiGRE opens thereby new research directions within the tradition of studies of trust relationships between citizens and public authorities. TiGRE's aim is to reveal the role of trust and distrust in European regulatory governance and the ways trust can be maintained, enhanced, repaired and nurtured via administrative practices and reforms. It takes a multilevel governance approach, which includes the EU level as well as the national and regional ones. Trust – both as a pre-condition and a consequence of well-functioning regulatory regimes – is a key factor to be considered in order to capture how these regimes are able to produce effective and legitimate governance. The in-depth investigation of the complex interplay between trust configurations and regulation in different regulatory regimes (finance, food safety, communication and data protection) across levels of governance and in several countries requires the joint effort of experts with wide-ranging experience. TiGRE is run by a tightly integrated multidisciplinary consortium of top-level scholars, who bring together a very broad range of theoretical, substantial, and methodological skills. A cutting-edge mixed-method approach is applied to provide a comprehensive understanding of such multi-faceted trust-related processes. To bridge research with policy and practice, TiGRE provides criteria, indicators and early warning mechanisms for detecting decreasing trust, and scenarios on consequences thereof. They will be validated through interaction with stakeholders and compared with evidence from outside the EU.

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Safeguards of the cultural heritage. Tools and practices for its intergrated management in Santiago de Cuba and the Eastern Region of Cuba. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

This project focuses on the development of tools and practices that relate to cultural heritage, ICT and sustainable local development from the logic of public spaces, places and memory, valuing the main results of the first stage in different contexts and institutions, in order to contribute to its integrated management. The development of heritage information systems and methodologies for intervention in heritage buildings are some of the tools that integrate the project within the wider societal context.

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Architect 2.0 – Re-evaluation of the Belgian legal framework for architects. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

The professional reality of architects is changing quite radically due to different developments. Contemporary construction projects are more and more often interdisciplinary collaborations. The projects are expected to provide sustainable urban solutions for so-called "wicked problems", such as climate change, mobility, health and the aging society. Addressing wicked problems in construction projects requires expertise from different disciplines. An example of such an interdisciplinary project that relies on close collaboration between various experts is the Dutch 2nd Skin project. This project aims to increase the energy-efficiency of existing structures through the use of modular façade elements that form a second "skin" around the building. The technology is the result of a collaboration between engineers, architects, housing corporations, real estate developers and climatologists. In Belgium the relationship between the architect, the owner and the constructor is typically represented by a "construction triangle", in which the architect takes the lead. However, as complex construction projects are increasingly based on partnerships with a variety of expertise and interests, the dynamics within this traditional construction triangle have shifted over time. This could ultimately lead to a move from the "construction triangle" towards a kind of "expertise network". Although architects continue to play an important role in those interdisciplinary projects, this "new reality" has a significant impact on the way architects are operating. Nonetheless, key components of the Belgian legal framework for architects have not been adapted to this new reality. Moreover, the literature does not systematically address this issue despite the fact that an academic debate has been launched in Belgium to think about the "Architect in the 21st Century". As this legal framework is currently under revision, this is an excellent moment to take into account the new professional reality of architects and to re-evaluate the legal framework. Therefore, the main objective of the current project is to systematically rethink the role of the architect (Architect 2.0) and to re-evaluate the relevant Belgian legal framework in a more fundamental way. In terms of methodology, we employ a comparative legal analysis (i.e. Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK) combined with qualitative empirical research. At the end of the project, an examination will be made whether it is necessary and appropriate to recommend changes to the Belgian legal framework and/or best practices facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration in design and construction processes.

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Trust in the Unified Patent Court (UPC): A Pilot Study for Empirical Research in Patent Law. 01/01/2018 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

The institutional design of the European patent system will soon change significantly once the "Patent Package" will finally fully enter into force. As a consequence a new type of "unitary" patent protection and a new centralized, highly specialized court, the "Unified Patent Court" (hereinafter UPC) will be created. At many occasions, it has been noted that the success of the UPC will largely depend on "public trust" or more specifically the "trust of the patent user community" in the UPC. However, commentators who refer to the importance of trust in this context do not clarify what they mean by "trust", nor do they disentangle the form, causes and potential of trust with respect to such a new, highly specialized court system. The literature on trust within the context of judicial governance is rather limited. Although some research exists on public trust (trust of ordinary citizens) in courts and on trust between courts, we do not know to what extent and how trust based on expertise is relevant for the legitimacy and effectiveness of new judicial organizations in the context of a highly specialized legal regime like patent law. The main objectives of this research project are (1) to provide a stable research base in order to start developing a theory on trust in patent law and (2) to prepare a pilot study for empirical research by way of a survey amongst patent practitioners related to trust in the UPC.

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Trust, legitimacy and intended compliance with COVID-19 exit strategy measures. 01/06/2020 - 31/05/2021

Abstract

Hoewel ingrijpende Covid-19 lockdownmaatregelen legitiem waren in de eerste maanden van de crisis, begint de roep om strenge maatregelen geleidelijk aan af te nemen. Burgers eisen dat exit-strategieën ontwikkeld worden met voldoende aandacht voor hun sociaaleconomische belangen, terwijl potentiële inbreuken op grondrechten zoals bewegingsvrijheid, privacy en eerlijke mededinging, en rechtsbeginselen zoals gelijkheid en proportionaliteit, leiden tot kritiek en zelfs rechtszaken tegen overheidsmaatregelen. De huidige overheidsstrategieën zijn hoofdzakelijk gebaseerd zijn op epidemiologisch en medisch onderzoek. De toenemende relevantie van sociale en juridische factoren voor exit-strategieën impliceert echter dat nieuwe data en kennis dringend nodig zijn. In het bijzonder is er behoefte aan inzicht in de voorwaarden waaronder Covid-19 overheidsmaatregelen sociaal legitiem en wettig zijn en burgers stimuleren tot naleving. Ons project verhelpt het gebrek aan wetenschappelijke en beleidsrelevante kennis van sociale en juridische factoren van belang bij Covid- 19 exit-strategieën, door middel van een dubbele onderzoekaanpak: 1) drie vignette surveys bestuderen hoe de nalevingsbereidheid en legitimiteit van combinaties van nieuwe Belgische Covid-19 maatregelen worden beïnvloed door framing op onderliggende volksgezondheids-, sociale en juridische belangen, en 2) een systematische juridische analyse genereert inzicht in de wettigheid van nieuwe maatregelen, en dient tevens als essentiële input voor het ontwerp van voornoemde vignette surveys. Door middel van continue communicatie aan overheden van resultaten uit zowel de vignette survey als de juridische analyse, kunnen we reeds gedurende het project beleidsrelevante input leveren voor concrete maatregelen. Daarmee helpen we overheden om geïnformeerde en gebalanceerde beslissingen te nemen over hun exit-strategieën en helpen we gebrekkige naleving van of rechtszaken tegen Covid-19 maatregelen te voorkomen.

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Assessing and Fostering Independence in Specialised Courts: Comparative Case Studies of the Brussels International Business Court, the Unified Patent Court and the Multilateral Investment Court. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

In recent years, the independence of judicial institutions has represented one of the most debated issues in the context of the good administration of justice. Scholars have investigated mechanisms and principles fostering the independence of courts and developed sets of "indicators" to assess independence. Despite the vast literature on independence of generalist courts, a fundamental gap can be identified with respect to specialised courts. Specialised courts face different challenges than generalist ones. In fact, they may be more inclined to make decisions which favor the "mission" for which they are created. Moreover, specialised courts may - more than other courts - be subject to the influence exerted by interest groups. This project aims to provide a better understanding of judicial independence in the context of specialised courts. Desk research will be complemented by empirical research investigating the projects for the creation of the Brussels International Business Court (BIBC), the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and the Multilateral Investment Court (MIC). Although these courts have different goals, institutional designs and are facing distinct political challenges, they are all subject to intense criticism due to the alleged insufficient guarantees of independence. My final aim is to identify specific indicators and guidelines to asses and foster independence at the BIBC, the UPC and the MIC.

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Access and Benefit Sharing for Digital Sequence Information in the Context of the Convention on Biodiversity in preparation for COP15. 01/09/2019 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will meet in 2021 to negotiate and define the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). A critical point of negotiation is the issue of access and benefit-sharing (ABS) from "digital sequence information on genetic resources" (DSI). DSI is essential for life sciences research, including biodiversity, food security, and public health. The current model for DSI is "open-access" which not only enables scientific reproducibility and enforces scientific integrity, it enables global non-monetary benefit sharing, including scientific capacity building in developing countries precisely because everything is open, free, and reusable. Yet this very openness raises questions from some Parties about alleged lost opportunities for benefit-sharing, which are regulated for genetic resources in the Nagoya Protocol. Tension builds because of the divergence between some Parties' desire to maintain control over genetic resources and DSI, and the scientific community's observation that the value of DSI can only be fully realized if the system is as open and comprehensive as possible. This project is aimed at identifying potential compromise solutions for the current stalemate starting from a scientific perspective, while taking into consideration the interests of various stakeholders.

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Governing Seeds as a Commons for Food Security: A Normative Shift from Appropriation to Sharing 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

With a growing world population and increasing climate change threats, farmers need to access a wide diversity of seeds to produce enough food to feed the world: this requires access to the diversity of varieties of both the physical seed and its associated knowledge. Globalization has favoured private ownership over seeds and its associated knowledge, protected by intellectual property rights (e.g. Monsanto), as the main tool to manage seeds and to promote research and development. However, the increase of property rights over plant varieties has led to reduced access to seeds and to major loss of agrobiodiversity, thereby threatening future food security. This project analyses the current legal framework and governance systems related to seed management in light of the theory of the commons. It aims to re-instil the values of sharing, exchange and fairness within these systems. Two case studies (YuanYang rice terraces (China); International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, the Philippines)) are carried out to examine the importance of the role of commons' sharing values in local (YuanYang) and international (IRRI) rice management systems. The overall objective is twofold: (1) contribute to the theory of the commons in the area of food and agriculture governance; (2) improve the existing seed legal framework to enable the international community to reach their food security and sustainable agriculture objectives.

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Rethinking Intellectual Property Ownership in the Context of Open Innovation. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Open innovation (OI) has gained significant popularity in recent decades. It refers to a model for innovation whereby entities increasingly rely on external knowledge and external partners throughout the innovation process. This model has been embraced by numerous companies and its relevance has also been recognized by public institutions. In negotiating R&D partnerships, international partners encounter challenges with contract clauses allocating the ownership of jointly developed technologies due to differences in cultural and legal backgrounds. Many legal systems prescribe a regime of so-called co-ownership – which often requires approval from the co-owners for important decisions in exploiting the technologies (e.g. licensing, selling). Moreover, the detailed ownership rules may differ between countries. This could result in high transaction costs, delays and conflicts. Therefore, in practice international partners tend to "contract out" of the legislative co-ownership rules and set up alternative Intellectual Property (IP) ownership arrangements in their agreements. This research project aims to analyse (1) the differences between the legal frameworks on IP ownership allocation in several countries, (2) the alternative contractual IP ownership arrangements and (3) the extent to which legislators could adjust their legislation and stakeholders could adapt their contractual arrangements in order to facilitate engagement in OI and international collaboration.

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THE ARCHITECT 2.0: challenges related to the architect's copyright within the context of Open Metropolitan Design 01/07/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

According to recent research, the Belgian legislation no longer matches the architects new professional reality (Uytterhoeven 2016). However, the legal literature on this topic does not take into consideration the way future metropoles are evolving. The literature on urban theory describes the need for cities that respond to complex challenges, so-called 'wicked problems', e.g. mobility, sustainability, housing and safeguarding cultural heritage. The literature and practice show that such problems can only be tackled by way of interdisciplinary collaboration between different experts and participation of all relevant stakeholders - e.g. architects, engineers, urban planners, project developers, scientists, policymakers and citizens (Aravena, 2015; Ratti and Claudel 2015). In our research we use the notion 'Open Metropolitan Design' (OMD) in order to refer to this type of collaboration. The application of OMD in urban development also has some implications for the architect's copyright, in particular for the moral rights. For instance, can architects invoke their moral rights to object to alterations to buildings that they have designed even if that would have negative effects on certain societal interests? This could occur for example when a building would be adapted in order to comply with sustainability requirements. Until now no literature exists on this type of issues. The research team 'Metropolitan Legal Lab' (MLL) - an informal interdisciplinary collaboration established by the promoter and co-promoter of this research application - aims at filling this gap in the literature. A comparative legal research method will be used focusing on the implications of the new professional reality of the architect with respect to his moral rights within the context of OMD. The objective of this research application is to carry out preparatory research on the basis of a systematic literature review, a number of interviews and a comparative legal analysis in view of drafting a research application for external funding. During a recent Research Workshop, organized by MLL and funded by STIMPRO2015, the relevance of these developments and of this new legal line of research concerning urban development was unanimously confirmed.

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"Privatizing" Urban Planning: An Examination of the Role of Transferable Development Rights in Flanders from a Comparative Perspective. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

In the Flemish debate on urban planning policy, Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) have recently been suggested as a possible solution for urban planning problems. The underlying principle of TDRs is relatively simple: property rights and development rights of real-estate are being separated and a market for development rights is created. Those development rights can then be traded and transferred to other real-estate owners or developers. Typically a distinction is made between the places where a community would like to see less development, the so-called sending areas, to places where a community would like to see more development, the receiving areas. The sending areas are generally areas where the government would like to achieve certain public policy objectives, such as safeguarding open space or preserving the environment or the rural or historical nature. Although the concept is not new (origins in the US beginning of the 20th Century) and a strong interest exists in Flanders to explore the utility of TDRs, no systematic academic literature or policy studies have been carried out to examine whether TDRs would actually fit within the Flemish/Belgian legal framework or whether this would require a modification of the legal framework. The proposed research project aims at filling this gap by examining to what extent it is necessary and feasible to introduce TDRs into the legal framework to respond to the identified needs and problems of contemporary urban planning.

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Antwerp Consortium on the Organization of Rulemaking and Multilevel Governance in Europe (ACTORE). 01/09/2016 - 31/08/2019

Abstract

The core research revolves around the theme of multilevel governance in the EU. The consortium examines how EU multilevel governance impacts upon public policymaking processes in relation to rule-making and rule-implementation, both at the European and the domestic level. Its research program is centered around three interrelated research lines focusing on the complex multilevel governance system of the EU, changing domestic and EU rule-making processes and the legitimacy of the EU multilevel political system. Multilevel governance in the EU has made the organizational and institutional architecture of government and governance institutions much more interdependent and complex, affecting the way national and European societal interests organize themselves, how they secure representation and provide input in order to influence policy outcomes. These developments interact with changing domestic and European processes and outcomes of rule-making. All this ultimately raises questions concerning the legitimacy of how the EU multilevel political system operates and involves citizens and societal groups.

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Rethinking Intellectual Property Ownership in the Context of Open Innovation. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

Open innovation (OI) has gained significant popularity in recent decades. It refers to a model for innovation whereby entities increasingly rely on external knowledge and external partners throughout the innovation process. This model has been embraced by numerous companies and its relevance has also been recognized by public institutions. In negotiating R&D partnerships, international partners encounter challenges with contract clauses allocating the ownership of jointly developed technologies due to differences in cultural and legal backgrounds. Many legal systems prescribe a regime of so-called co-ownership – which often requires approval from the co-owners for important decisions in exploiting the technologies (e.g. licensing, selling). Moreover, the detailed ownership rules may differ between countries. This could result in high transaction costs, delays and conflicts. Therefore, in practice international partners tend to "contract out" of the legislative co-ownership rules and set up alternative Intellectual Property (IP) ownership arrangements in their agreements. This research project aims to analyse (1) the differences between the legal frameworks on IP ownership allocation in several countries, (2) the alternative contractual IP ownership arrangements and (3) the extent to which legislators could adjust their legislation and stakeholders could adapt their contractual arrangements in order to facilitate engagement in OI and international collaboration.

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Open Metropolitan Design & IP Law (OMD-IP): New Legal Issues in the Context of Open Creative Design of Future Metropolitan Settings 01/07/2015 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This project aims the development of a new line of research entitled "Open Metropolitan Design and Intellectual Property Law (IP Law)". Open innovation and "the global city" are key themes for future (international) metropolitan cities. The modalities clash, however, with the fundamental principles of IP law. The literature does noet deal with these challenges. The current proposal aims to provide innovative legal solutions for these challenges.

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Patent Governance, Patent Reforms & Institutional Change: A Comparative Analysis of Patent Reforms in Europe, the US and Japan. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Patent systems are criticized increasingly for failing to respond in a coherent and effective manner to key economic, societal, and political challenges, such as climate change and global health problems. Frequently such criticism eventually leads to a push for fundamental patent reforms, including the establishment of new institutions and regulation. Yet, there is a risk that some of these reforms are not apt for achieving the underlying objectives. In Europe and the US, radical patent reforms are taking place today. In Japan, the patent system was changed significantly a decade ago. In view of the strategic role in stimulating research and development, innovation and competitiveness, which is widely attributed to patents, it is important to examine and compare patent systems, the objectives for patent reforms, reform processes and the institutional changes. Such an examination may provide useful lessons on governance experiments in other jurisdictions. The current project has four main aims. Firstly, to examine how patent governance and patent reform processes can be put on firmer theoretical grounds and can be analyzed within a more advanced conceptual framework. In this respect, it aims to add to the state-of-the-art by elaborating on the available governance literature of public administration, comparative politics and institutional change; secondly, to analyze and compare the European, US and Japanese patent reforms, the patent reform processes and the implementation of the reforms; thirdly, to develop a taxonomy of modes of institutional change and, fourthly, to identify best practices. These aims lead to the following research questions: (1) What are pivotal elements for a conceptual governance framework tailored to the particularities of patent systems? (2) What is the state of affairs ("law in the books" and "law in practice") of the implementation of the European, US and Japanese patent reforms? (3) Can a taxonomy of institutional change be developed on the basis of the comparative analysis under (2)? (4) Are there any particular "best practices" that can be derived from the comparative analysis and taxonomy of institutional change, which could be applied within other jurisdictions?

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Globalization, Multi-level Governance and Federalism in Patent Law: A Comparative Analysis of Patent Reforms in Europe, the US and Japan 01/02/2014 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

In Europe, the US and Japan, patent reforms have led to a fundamental redesign of the patent system and the creation of new institutions. Significant differences and similarities exist as to the objectives of the reforms, the reform processes and the institutional changes in the three jurisdictions. An in-depth, comparative analysis from a governance perspective will provide important new insights regarding these reforms.

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Research in the field of Globalization, Multilevel Governance and Federalism. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

The overall objective of her project is to add to the current state of affairs by elaborating on the available governance literature on globalization, multi-level governance and federalism in order to get a better understanding of the rationale of the European, US and Japanese patent reforms and the actual influence of those patent reforms on the institutional design of the respective patent systems.

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Legal research for the purposes of the execution of the ESA project ITT AO 1-7041/11/F/MOS. 01/10/2013 - 30/11/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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