Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ACTA Risks Long-Term Damage To Democratic Public Policymaking, NGOs Say; Intellectual Property Watch, 6/30/10

Kaitlin Mara and Monika Ermert; Intellectual Property Watch; ACTA Risks Long-Term Damage To Democratic Public Policymaking, NGOs Say:

"An international agreement on intellectual property rights enforcement now under negotiation in Lucerne, Switzerland runs the risk of ushering in a new and undemocratic precedent for international policymaking that could have long-term damaging effects on critical public policy issues, non-negotiating government representatives and civil society advocates said this week.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, they said, could have a chilling effect on access to medications, including the potential to criminalise makers of active pharmaceutical ingredients who are critical to the generics industry, and could cause serious problems for internet freedom.

The 28 June event in Geneva was cosponsored by Knowledge Ecology International and IQsensato.

More worrying, they added, is that while currently an initiative of a few countries, its ultimate aim seems to be to become universal. The negotiating process seems to follow on the heels of the trend of countries shopping for easy fora through which to push the same increasing intellectual property enforcement agenda. Denied enforcement actions in places such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization and elsewhere, these countries are now creating their own forum under ACTA.

This platform can then be used to foist burdensome enforcement strategies on the rest of the world through bilateral and regional agreements. If such a strategy is allowed to succeed, they argue, it could have follow-on effects far outside the intellectual property sphere.

While it is probably too late to stop, the ACTA could be saved if its real targets act, said Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a staunch critic of the ACTA process to date.

At the “end of the day, ACTA is about Brazil, India” and other emerging economies, Geist said. If those countries “who are the targets [and] who have for too long sat on the sidelines and said they weren’t part of the process … are willing to stand up and be more aggressive,” then ACTA could be turned into something that would not risk upsetting a balanced IP regime.

ACTA’s ninth negotiating session is taking place in this week in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Negotiators in Lucerne on Monday met with nongovernmental organisations and later the Pirate Party. For one and a half hours the Berne Declaration and several other nongovernmental organisations presented their concerns to the delegations of Australia, Canada, European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States who are negotiating the agreement."

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