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Dispatches from Maastricht: Lessons on Paper Mills and Intellectual Property

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Olivia Harrison will graduate from the Crosby MBA program in May. During the last eight weeks of this semester, Harrison is studying with fellow MBA candidate Kevin Nielson at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics. She and Nielson maintain personal blogs of their experiences and have allowed us to repost some of their content.

paper_mill

The production room at a Smurfit Kappa Paper Services facility

Instead of normal lectures this week, we had two guest lectures: Tom Munten, supply chain director for the Recycled Paper Europe (RPE) cluster of Smurfit Kappa Paper Services, and Professor Bart Verspagen, Director of UNU (United Nations University)-MERIT and Director-Dean of the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance.

In one of my classes, we will be working on multiple live cases throughout our experience. Our first case was with Smurfit Kappa, a leading producer of paper-based packaging, with operations in 32 countries and €8 billion in net sales. I can’t share the case details or the information, but this is a business intelligence course, and we got to work with data  and lots of it. In a week, we come up with recommendations to solve their problem. Case closed.

Verspagen is an economist, specializing in technological change. His research takes a broad approach, including the process of economic growth, industrial dynamics, and international trade theory. During his lecture for my intellectual property class, he took the position of why patents and intellectual property rights are threatening social welfare. He challenged us to think about the effects patents have on the diffusion of knowledge, tragedy of the anticommons, and three areas where patents are specifically problematic: health, agriculture, and traditional knowledge. His lecture helped guide a discussion among the students about the pros and cons of patents, if intellectual property rights (IPRs) should be abolished, and what the optimal length of IPRs might be. As it stands, Mickey Mouse remains off limits, but feel free to crib Oliver Twist.

To read more about the international experiences of students in the Crosby MBA program, click here. To learn about study abroad opportunities as a business student, click here.