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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Catching counterfeits: European Commission seeks ACTA mandate

The IPKat has just been reading Press Release IP/07/1573, which emanated from Brussels earlier today.

Right: impatient with international initiatives to deal with fakes and counterfeits, the IPKat decides to take the matter into his own paws

The press release reads, in relevant part [with added IPKomments]:

"European Commission seeks mandate to negotiate major new international anti- counterfeiting pact

The European Commission has announced today that it will seek a mandate from European Member States to negotiate a new Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) with major trading partners, including the US, Japan, Korea, Mexico and New Zealand. Such an agreement would strengthen efforts to protect European intellectual property around the world, a key part of the EU's Global Europe trade strategy. ACTA’s goal is to provide a high-level international framework that strengthens the global enforcement of intellectual property rights and helps in the fight to protect consumers from the health and safety risks associated with many counterfeit products.

...

ACTA would contribute to fighting counterfeiting in three ways:

Building international cooperation leading to harmonised standards and better communication between authorities. This will build on coordinated anti-counterfeiting work the EU is already doing with large partners like the US. These standards would then be spread to other countries if they wished to sign up to ACTA. The EU has proposed transitional mechanisms and technical assistance to help advanced developing countries join the pact in the future.

[The IPKat says, this sounds pretty grand - but there are plenty of unanswered questions here. Does "better communication between authorities" mean only communication between equivalent forces, e.g. between customs authorities, or will it enable customs in one country to cooperate with criminal enforcement, tax or asset recovery agencies in another? ]

Establishing common enforcement practices to promote strong intellectual property protection in coordination with right holders and trading partners. The EU is consistently pushing countries like China to enforce anti-counterfeiting legislation and to toughen the legal penalties for intellectual property theft. Closer coordination on international benchmarks can reinforce this pressure;

[The IPKat wonders what sort of cooperation IP owners can expect from criminal enforcement and customs authorities, given the difficulties of getting hold of criminal evidence for use in civil proceedings, difficulties in releasing personal data concerning actual or suspected infringers and the widely-held attitude of the public authorities in many jurisdictions that they're got enough to do already without policing IP rights for what are often misleadingly viewed as a cadre of spoilt, super-rich businesses. Merpel adds, I'm not sure which countries are "like China" - and why. Surely China is a special case all on its own because we can't do without its manufacturing capacity and we're totally scared to do anything about its infringement for fear of what any trade retaliation might do to us.]

Creating a strong modern legal framework which reflects the changing nature of intellectual property theft in the global economy, including the rise of easy-to-copy digital storage mediums and the increasing danger of health threats from counterfeit food and pharmaceutical drugs.

[The IPKat says, if there's a "strong modern legal framework" that does what it says in this press release, thank heavens for ACTA - because no-one else has been able even to work out what the workable solutions are, let alone devise a framework for them.]

Background

Twenty years ago, counterfeiting might have been regarded as a problem chiefly for the makers of luxury goods. [The IPKat says, at this point the press release cites a load of figures which, he believes, are quite wildly inaccurate but which may just as easily be underestimates of the problem as overestimates] ...

...

A key part of the Global Europe Communication by the European Commission was a commitment to strengthen further efforts to protect and enforce European intellectual property around the world. Since then, the European Union has been worked with countries like China, Russia and others to stop widespread and systematic piracy of European companies' intellectual assets. The European Commission is also including strong IPR chapters in all its new generation of Free Trade Agreements with India, Korea, ASEAN and Latin America".

The IPKat wishes this mission well, but wishes that he were filled with as much optimism as the press release seeks to encourage. He hopes the Commission for the world's premier single market zone won't have to wait too long for its mandate -- and he hopes that any EU Member State reluctant to support it will have some very cogent reasons for doing so.

If the ACTA initiative can solve the massive problems caused by counterfeiting and IP infringement, that would be wonderful. But, says Merpel, maybe the best we can hope for is that those who enforce IP at all levels won't just be facing greater administrative demands that distract them from their important tasks.

Mission Impossible here
Achieving the Impossible here, here and -- to show it really does happen occasionally -- here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The ACTA was propsed by a japaense former prime minister Koizumi in the G8 summit in 2005.

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