In the years leading up to Canada’s entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, there was considerable speculation about demands imposed by the U.S. For example, I wrote in 2012 about two reported demands: that Canada was stuck with any chapters concluded before entry and that it would not have any veto authority. This meant that if all other countries agreed on a particular provision, Canada would be required to accept it.
Yesterday, Industry Minister James Moore provided the first official confirmation of at least one other condition of admission to the talks: anti-counterfeiting legislation. Bill C-8, the anti-counterfeiting bill that focuses on providing new border measures provisions such as enhanced search and seizure powers for customs agents without court oversight, is really a bill about satisfying U.S. demands for TPP entry. According to Moore:
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Last year, the federal government trumpeted anti-counterfeiting legislation as a key priority. The bill raced through the legislative process in the winter and following some minor modifications after committee hearings, seemed set to pass through the House of Commons. Yet after committee approval, the bill suddenly stalled with little movement throughout the spring.
Why did a legislative priority with all-party approval seemingly grind to a halt?
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) suggests that the answer appears to stem from the appointment of Bruce Heyman as the new U.S. ambassador to Canada. During his appointment process, Heyman identified intellectual property issues as a top priority and as part of his first major speech as ambassador, singled out perceived shortcomings in the anti-counterfeiting bill.
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The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology held its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-8, the anti-counterfeiting bill yesterday. I appeared before the committee last month to express concerns about some lobbyist demands for reforms, including removing the exception for personal goods of travelers, the inclusion of statutory damages for trademark infringement, and targeting in-transit shipments.
While the committee did not complete the review of the bill – it will resume on Wednesday – the surprise of the day involved Liberal MP Judy Sgro proposing that the government remove the exception for personal travelers. Given that personal use exceptions are even included in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it is shocking to see any party proposing their removal, which would result in longer delays at the border and increased searches of individual travelers. The proposal failed since it was rejected by both the Conservatives and NDP, with the NDP noting that “this was one of the important provisions that brought some balance to the bill.”
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The leak of the Trans Pacific Partnership intellectual property chapter confirms that the many concerns about the agreement were well-founded. My earlier posts highlighted Canada’s opposition to many U.S. proposals and U.S. demands for Internet provider liability that could lead to subscriber termination, content blocking, and ISP monitoring. This post focuses on some of the anti-counterfeiting requirements in the TPP. The anti-counterfeiting issue is particularly relevant from a Canadian perspective because the government has proposed significant new anti-counterfeiting measures in Bill C-8, which is currently at second reading in the House of Commons and being studied by the Industry Committee. If the U.S. border measures demands are included in the TPP, Bill C-8 would be wholly inadequate to meet Canada’s new treaty obligations.
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The government’s anti-counterfeiting legislation, which died over the summer when the Conservatives hit the parliamentary reset button, is now back on the legislative fast track. Industry Minister James Moore quickly re-introduced the bill last month and speedily sent it to the Industry Committee for review (I appeared before the committee last week).
That review has revealed that the numerous new border measures envisioned by the bill, including seizure powers without court oversight, fall short of the demands of intellectual property lobby groups. Those groups intend to use the committee hearings to seek further expansion of border seizures and to shift more enforcement costs to the public.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that since virtually everyone is opposed to harmful counterfeiting – particularly when fake goods create health and safety risks – it is unsurprising that the bill appears to enjoy all-party support. The focal point of the bill is that it grants customs officials broad new powers without court oversight. Officials will be required to assess whether goods entering or exiting the country infringe any copyright or trademark rights. Should a customs official determine that there is infringement, the goods may be seized and prevented from entering the country.
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