This week’s signing of the TPP in New Zealand provides a useful reminder that a potential ratification means committing to far more than just one (very large) trade agreement. One of the Troubles with the TPP is that the intellectual property chapter requires all countries to ratify or accede to as many as nine international IP treaties. In other words, the treaties within the treaty are a core part of the obligations that come with TPP.
Article 18.7 specifies that all countries have already ratified or acceded to three IP treaties: the Patent Cooperation Treaty, Paris Convention, and Berne Convention. More notably, there are as many as six additional treaties that must be ratified or acceded in order to ratify the TPP:
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The Trouble with the TPP series continues with one of the most high profile copyright concerns associated with the TPP: mandatory copyright term extension (prior posts include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks). The term of copyright in Canada is presently life of the author plus an additional 50 years, a term consistent with the international standard set by the Berne Convention. This is also the standard in half of the TPP countries with Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Brunei, and Vietnam also providing protection for life plus 50 years.
From a Canadian perspective, the issue of extending the term of copyright was raised on several prior occasions and consistently rejected by governments and trade negotiators. For example, term extension was discussed during the 2009 national copyright consultation, but the Canadian government wisely decided against it. Further, the European Union initially demanded that Canada extend the term of copyright in the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, but that too was effectively rebuffed with the issue of term removed from the final text.
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The World Trade Organization yesterday released its much-anticipated decision involving a U.S. complaint against China over its protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. The U.S. quickly proclaimed victory, with newspaper headlines trumpeting the WTO panel's requirement that China reform elements of its intellectual property laws. For its part, China was conciliatory and offered to work with the international community to resolve the concerns raised by the decision. Reuters notes that the Chinese reaction is far less combative than it has been other issues.
Why the muted response? I suspect that it is because anyone who bothers to work through the 147 page decision will find that the headlines get it wrong. The U.S. did not win this case, but rather lost badly. China is required to amend elements of its copyright law, but on the big issues of this case – border measures and IP enforcement – almost all of the contested laws were upheld as valid. Further, the ramifications of this case extend well beyond China's laws into other areas such as ACTA, since it points to the considerable flexiblity that countries have in meeting their international obligations on these issues.
The case centred on three key issues:
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