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USTR Presents ACTA For Consultation

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

22 December 2010

Following its finalisation last month, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has now submitted the text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) for public comments, prior to its possible signature by the US government.

The ACTA has been described by the USTR as “the highest-standard plurilateral agreement yet achieved concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights,” that “would establish an international model for effectively combating the global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy,” which undermines legitimate trade.

The agreement includes provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including provisions on civil, criminal, border and digital environment enforcement measures, robust cooperation mechanisms among the ACTA parties to assist in their enforcement efforts, and the establishment of best practices for effective IPR enforcement.

Participants in the negotiations, who together represent more than 50% of world trade, include Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU) and its member states, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Each of those participants is now expected to put the ACTA through its relevant ratification process.

During three years and many rounds of talks, with some countries known to advocate more stringent restrictions in the global control and enforcement of IPR, there have been various misgivings as to the extent of the additional obligations the ACTA might impose on market players, particularly internet service providers (ISPs), that, it was said, could be expected to become an “internet police force” and be liable for infringements taking place on their networks.

However, while the parties to the agreement are to ensure that enforcement procedures are available under their law so as to permit effective action against any act of infringement of IPR, it has been stressed that the parties have recognized the need to ensure that measures and procedures to enforce IPR do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade.

The measures adopted, it has been said, are therefore an attempt to balance the rights and interests of all stakeholders and, in the digital environment, of the relevant copyright and trademark holders, internet service providers (ISPs) and users.

The participants have agreed to establish a committee not only to review the operation of the ACTA, but to serve as a forum to discuss enforcement issues and handle any matters relating to the agreement.

The prospect of such an agreement has, so far, brought out a wide range of views – from the US Chamber of Commerce, which applauded its finalisation, to digital rights groups, such as the US Computer and Communications Industry Association, that have said the ACTA is too broad an effort to enforce copyright laws, as different laws exist in different countries.

The deadline for submission of written comments on the ACTA to the USTR is February 15, 2011.

TAGS: Morocco | business | law | intellectual property | copyright | Australia | Mexico | Singapore | enforcement | agreements | internet | Canada | Korea, South | New Zealand | Switzerland | United States | European Union (EU) | Japan | Europe

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