This has been a remarkable two weeks for those tracking the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, as the proposed treaty has begun to attract attention at the highest political levels. The European Union has undergone the greatest change. First, the identification of the transparency holdouts led to a unanimous EU position favouring release of the text. This week, EC Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht stated: "I will see to it that at the next negotiating round, in April, the Commission will vigorously push its negotiating partners to agree to release the text." This leaves the U.S., South Korea, and Singapore as the remaining barriers to full transparency. Second, this week's European Parliament resolution places the European Commission on the defensive with respect to ACTA. The negotiations will continue, but Europe clearly faces internal challenges in the ACTA process.
The U.S. response to the European developments came yesterday, as President Obama reiterated his support for finishing ACTA. In comments on IP enforcement, Obama discussed the need to "aggressively protect" IP, pointing specifically to ACTA. The reference to ACTA was clearly meant to send a strong signal that the U.S. intends to continue its push for a treaty. Indeed, the U.S. has not changed its position on anything with respect to ACTA – it is one of the lone holdouts on the issue of transparency and its negotiating position on the text itself has not moved much through almost two years of negotiations. Consider the Civil Enforcement chapter, which was first proposed by the U.S. in July 2008 at the second round of ACTA talks in Washington. The recent leak of the latest version of the chapter shows that practically nothing has changed:
Read more ›
Throughout the debate over ACTA transparency, many countries have taken public positions that they support release of the actual text, but that other countries do not. Since full transparency requires consensus of all the ACTA partners, the text simply can't be released until everyone is in agreement. Of course, those same countries hasten to add that they can't name who opposes ACTA transparency, since that too is secret.
No longer. In an important new leak from the Netherlands (Dutch, Google English translation, better English translation), a Dutch memorandum reporting back on the Mexico ACTA negotiation round names names, pointing specifically to which countries support releasing the text and which do not (note that the memo does not canvass everyone – Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are known to support transparency but are not named in the memo). According to the Dutch memo, the UK has played a lead role in making the case for full disclosure of the documents and is of the view that there is consensus for release of the text (there is support from many countries including the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, and Austria). However, the memo indicates that several countries are not fully supportive including Belgium, Portugal, Germany, and Denmark. Of these four countries, the Dutch believe that Denmark is the most inflexible on the issue.
Outside of the Europe, the memo identifies three problem countries. While Japan is apparently supportive, both South Korea and Singapore oppose ACTA transparency. Moreover, the U.S. has remained silent on the issue, as it remains unconvinced of the need for full disclosure. In doing so, it would appear that the U.S. is perhaps the biggest problem since a clear position of support might be enough to persuade the remaining outliers.
Read more ›
Brazil is threatening to ignore U.S. patents in retaliation for WTO violations over cotton subsidies.
Read more ›
Reports from Costa Rica indicate that final approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States is languishing in the Legislative Assembly due to concerns over the copyright provisions. The CAFTA copyright provisions are similar to those found in the other major U.S. trade agreements concluded in recent years: DMCA-style protections, ISP liability, and copyright term extension are all part of the package.
In this case, it is the responses that are most noteworthy. Within Costa Rica, the article reports that the copyright provisions in the trade treaty have set off a wave of student protests over what it means for education. Meanwhile, health officials are concerned that the provisions on pharmaceutical products "would bankrupt the public health system." The response from the U.S. is important as well. It is delaying market access to sugar from the developing country until the copyright reforms are in place. Until that time, Costa Rican sugar producers will not be able to sell their product in the U.S.
Interestingly, Costa Rica is not the only country in the region grappling with U.S. pressure on copyright.
Read more ›
The U.S. delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization has just delivered a noteworthy statement on its commitment to addressing copyright exceptions for persons with print disabilities. The statement includes: the United States believes that the time has come for WIPO Members to work toward some form of international consensus […]
Read more ›