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    Fake Feta: Digging into the Intellectual Property Details of the Canada - EU Trade Agreement

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    Wednesday October 30, 2013
    The Canadian government released a technical summary of the Canada - EU trade agreement (CETA) yesterday, which provides further details on the draft agreement (tabling a summary of the treaty is a strange exercise and the government needs to release the full text). Within the summary, there are some further details on the intellectual property issues that were not highlighted in the initial releases.

    First, while the emphasis on cheese and the dairy industry has focused on increasing the amount of European cheese that can be sold in Canada, the agreement also contains some notable new restrictions on the sale and marketing of cheese in Canada more generally.  Under the umbrella of geographic indications protections, Canada has agreed to new limitations on several well known cheeses including asiago, feta, fontina, gorgonzola, and munster. Existing Canadian producers can continue to use these names, but that's it - any future cheese makers will need to qualify the title by using words such as "imitation" or "style". This is a significant concession that effectively gives rights to existing producers on what many consumers would view as generic names.


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    CETA Reached "In Principle", Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada

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    Friday October 18, 2013
    As noted in another post on the CETA intellectual property provisions, one of the key elements in the deal from a European perspective was patent term restoration, which effectively allows the large pharmaceutical companies to extend the term of their patents (additional posts on the need to release the draft text and the telecom and e-commerce provisions). The change will delay the entry of generic alternatives and, as acknowledged by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will raise health care costs across the country (estimates run into the billions). In fact, the Ontario government has already indicated that it may seek compensation (or "mitigate the impact") for the additional costs.

    Ironically, the CETA deal comes just as the government's Patented Medicines Prices Review Board issued its annual report that shows that the major pharmaceutical companies spending to sales ratio continues a decade-long decline, hitting its lowest level since the last time the Canadian government caved to pressure for patent reforms. According to the PMPRB released data (which is gathered from the companies themselves), the  R&D-to-sales ratio for members of Rx&D (the lead pharma lobby) was 6.6% in 2012, down from 6.7% in 2012. The Rx&D ratio has now been less than 10% for the past ten consecutive years and is approaching its lowest level since tracking began in 1988.  From a global perspective, Canada fares very poorly, ranking ahead of only Italy with countries such as France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., and U.S. all seeing greater expenditures.


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    Canada - EU Trade Agreement Reached "In Principle", Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions

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    Friday October 18, 2013
    Intellectual property was one of the most contentious aspects of the CETA negotiations, with copyright, patents, and geographic indications all sources of concern. A summary of the impact of CETA on each is posted below (additional posts on the need to release the text and the telecom and e-commerce provisions).

    Copyright

    Early CETA drafts included extensive copyright provisions that would have rendered Canadian copyright law virtually unrecognizable from its current state.  The EU position on copyright changed after two developments in 2012. First, Canada passed long-awaited copyright reform that addressed several concerns, most notably legal protection for digital locks and ISP liability. Second, the EU abandoned many of the remaining demands after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in July 2012 to reject Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, striking a major blow to the hopes of supporters who envisioned a landmark agreement that would set a new standard for intellectual property rights enforcement. 


    The resulting copyright provisions appear benign, as the government is claiming that CETA is consistent with current Canadian law:


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    Will Anyone Blink First? Canada - EU Trade Agreement Appears to Hit a Stalemate

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    Friday February 22, 2013

    Canadian and European officials traded public barbs yesterday over the inability to finalize the Canada - EU Trade Agreement. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said unless Canada makes some additional steps, there will be no deal. Canadian officials responded that Europe has yet to meet Canada's core concerns.  The comments come after a ministerial meeting this month was unable to yield an agreement. De Gucht and Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast met in Brussels in November 2012, but those talks failed to solve the outstanding issues. The two ministers met again in Ottawa two weeks ago with a similar result.

    While officials continue to put a brave face on the talks, the latest comments suggest mounting frustration at the unwillingness of either side to cave on key issues in order to strike a deal. The major remaining issues have been the same for months: agriculture, patent protection for pharmaceutical companies, investor access and protection, public procurement, automotive issues, and cultural protections.  Indeed, these issues were identified years ago as the major areas of disagreement (copyright was initially on this list but the defeat of ACTA removed it as an issue). 


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