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India Comes Out Swinging Against ACTA at WTO

India Comes Out Swinging Against ACTA at WTO
The Government of India came out forcefully against ACTA this week in an intervention at the World Trade Organization.  The India position, which may well reflect the views of other ACTA-excluded countries, demonstrates that ACTA is emerging as a contentious political issue that extends well beyond civil society and business groups concerned with the agreement.  Countries excluded from the ACTA process have to come to recognize the serious threat it represents both substantively as well as for the future of multilateral organizations.

The Government of India came out forcefully against ACTA this week in an intervention at the World Trade Organization.  The India position, which may well reflect the views of other ACTA-excluded countries, demonstrates that ACTA is emerging as a contentious political issue that extends well beyond civil society and business groups concerned with the agreement.  Countries excluded from the ACTA process have to come to recognize the serious threat it represents both substantively as well as for the future of multilateral organizations.

This growing concern from countries such as India represents a major new pressure point on the ACTA discussions.  The notion that ACTA countries could negotiate an agreement that would ultimately be used to pressure non-ACTA countries to conform without attracting opposition from those very countries was always unrealistic.  If the April ACTA round of talks was marked by the mounting pressure for greater transparency, the late June ACTA round of talks will undoubtedly have developing country opposition as its core concern.

India's intervention includes the following comments:

ACTA could short-change legal process, impede legitimate competition and shift the escalated costs of enforcing private commercial rights to governments, consumers and taxpayers. They also represent a systemic threat to the rights of legitimate traders and producers of goods, and fundamental rights of due process of individuals.

Another systemic concern is that IPR negotiations in RTAs and plurilateral processes like ACTA completely bypass the existing multilateral processes.

A systemic impact Members should be aware of is that even if some Members are not a party to plurilateral initiatives like ACTA, they could still have to enforce ACTA provisions due to cross referencing.

The released ACTA text shows a general shift in the locus of enforcement which enhances the power of IPRs holders beyond reasonable measure.

The intervention also focused on the specific substantive concerns with the border measure provisions:

Let me now turn Members specific attention to ACTA provisions relating to transit which are now public knowledge. We are aware that several provisions are still in square brackets, which actually means that their inclusion is well within the realm of possibility. The ACTA text requires that countries provide procedures for the customs seizure of goods “suspected” of infringing trademarks, copyrights and other IPRs against goods “in-transit”. According to the ACTA text, “In-transit” includes “customs transit” and “transhipment”. Seizures would be allowed even where there is a mere “prima facie” case of IPR infringement. In view of the recent seizures of generic drug consignments, provisions relating to ‘in-transit’ in all likelihood would create barriers to access to essential generic medicines,  as well  as access to critical climate change technologies. These provisions could concretise the legal framework the European Union has already instituted through its Council Regulation 1383/2003, which has been responsible for empowering customs and border officials to seize legitimate generic medicines exported by India to several developing countries, including LDCs. Let me remind Members that the EU has so far not provided us any legally satisfactory solution to recurring drug seizures leaving us with no option but to request for consultations under the WTO DSM on 11th May.

Turning to how the draft ACTA provisions can constrain TRIPS flexibilities, let me give an example. India's right to exercise flexibilities, such as granting compulsory licenses, would be interfered with by the mandatory application of border measures to goods in transit. Indian exporters could be constrained from shipping goods produced under its own exception to countries where there is no applicable IPRs protection because transit may be blocked by an intervening transit country’s application of domestic IPRs. Similarly, under the draft ACTA data exclusivity could be invoked by a transit country’s customs authorities as a basis for seizing pharmaceutical products in transit, even if there is no data exclusivity in the exporting and importing countries. This would obviously act as a significant constraint on exporting countries such as India.

The intervention concludes by emphasizing the need for multilateral approaches to addressing these issues and for greater involvement of the WTO.

Let me conclude by saying that these are not the concerns of India or the developing countries alone. Politicians, civil society and IP experts in ACTA members countries, have expressed concern regarding the substance and modus operandi of ACTA negotiations. It is a well known fact that 633 Members of European Parliament supported a Resolution in the European Parliament (Mar 10, 2010) deploring ACTA negotiations for bypassing the multilateral framework provided by the WTO and WIPO. Several such MEPs have written to DG, WTO and DG, WIPO requesting an impact assessment of the extent to which ACTA, as proposed, exceeds obligations in the current IP instruments and excludes flexibilities and exceptions contained in them. Even the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently raised serious questions concerning the data that has been relied on by proponents of the ACTA to support the effort. IPR experts are increasingly challenging the concept of minimum standards concept and calling for setting maximum standards or ceilings so that there is (i) legal security and predictability about the boundaries of IP protection, (ii) protection of user’s rights and (iii) free movement of goods, services and information.

While India is committed to dealing with IPR enforcement issues in line with its TRIPS obligations, the introduction of intrusive IPRs enforcement rules applicable to goods and services in international trade does not represent a reasonable or realistic response. A response, if required, has to emerge from a multilateral and transparent process, as is available in the WTO TRIPS Council, and should fully conform to the objectives and principles (Art 7, 8 ) of TRIPS agreement and the balance of rights and obligations enshrined in the Agreement. As goods and services of developing countries are becoming competitive with those of developed country producers, TRIPS plus measures, like the ACTA, seek to introduce a new set of "non-tariff" barriers to trade that will preponderantly hinder developing country exporters. We urge developed country Members to keep these concerns in mind while dealing with IPR enforcement issues. Agreements such as ACTA have the portents to completely upset the balance of rights and obligations of the TRIPS Agreement. WTO cannot remain a silent observer to such a development. It is important that the issue is deliberated in this Council in detail.

The Government of India came out forcefully against ACTA this week in an intervention at the World Trade Organization.  The India position, which may well reflect the views of other ACTA-excluded countries, demonstrates that ACTA is emerging as a contentious political issue that extends well beyond civil society and business groups concerned with the agreement.  Countries excluded from the ACTA process have to come to recognize the serious threat it represents both substantively as well as for the future of multilateral organizations.

This growing concern from countries such as India represents a major new pressure point on the ACTA discussions.  The notion that ACTA countries could negotiate an agreement that would ultimately be used to pressure non-ACTA countries to conform without attracting opposition from those very countries was always unrealistic.  If the April ACTA round of talks was marked by the mounting pressure for greater transparency, the late June ACTA round of talks will undoubtedly have developing country opposition as its core concern.

India's intervention includes the following comments:

ACTA could short-change legal process, impede legitimate competition and shift the escalated costs of enforcing private commercial rights to governments, consumers and taxpayers. They also represent a systemic threat to the rights of legitimate traders and producers of goods, and fundamental rights of due process of individuals.

Another systemic concern is that IPR negotiations in RTAs and plurilateral processes like ACTA completely bypass the existing multilateral processes.

A systemic impact Members should be aware of is that even if some Members are not a party to plurilateral initiatives like ACTA, they could still have to enforce ACTA provisions due to cross referencing.

The released ACTA text shows a general shift in the locus of enforcement which enhances the power of IPRs holders beyond reasonable measure.

The intervention also focused on the specific substantive concerns with the border measure provisions:

Let me now turn Members specific attention to ACTA provisions relating to transit which are now public knowledge. We are aware that several provisions are still in square brackets, which actually means that their inclusion is well within the realm of possibility. The ACTA text requires that countries provide procedures for the customs seizure of goods “suspected” of infringing trademarks, copyrights and other IPRs against goods “in-transit”. According to the ACTA text, “In-transit” includes “customs transit” and “transhipment”. Seizures would be allowed even where there is a mere “prima facie” case of IPR infringement. In view of the recent seizures of generic drug consignments, provisions relating to ‘in-transit’ in all likelihood would create barriers to access to essential generic medicines,  as well  as access to critical climate change technologies. These provisions could concretise the legal framework the European Union has already instituted through its Council Regulation 1383/2003, which has been responsible for empowering customs and border officials to seize legitimate generic medicines exported by India to several developing countries, including LDCs. Let me remind Members that the EU has so far not provided us any legally satisfactory solution to recurring drug seizures leaving us with no option but to request for consultations under the WTO DSM on 11th May.

Turning to how the draft ACTA provisions can constrain TRIPS flexibilities, let me give an example. India's right to exercise flexibilities, such as granting compulsory licenses, would be interfered with by the mandatory application of border measures to goods in transit. Indian exporters could be constrained from shipping goods produced under its own exception to countries where there is no applicable IPRs protection because transit may be blocked by an intervening transit country’s application of domestic IPRs. Similarly, under the draft ACTA data exclusivity could be invoked by a transit country’s customs authorities as a basis for seizing pharmaceutical products in transit, even if there is no data exclusivity in the exporting and importing countries. This would obviously act as a significant constraint on exporting countries such as India.

The intervention concludes by emphasizing the need for multilateral approaches to addressing these issues and for greater involvement of the WTO.

Let me conclude by saying that these are not the concerns of India or the developing countries alone. Politicians, civil society and IP experts in ACTA members countries, have expressed concern regarding the substance and modus operandi of ACTA negotiations. It is a well known fact that 633 Members of European Parliament supported a Resolution in the European Parliament (Mar 10, 2010) deploring ACTA negotiations for bypassing the multilateral framework provided by the WTO and WIPO. Several such MEPs have written to DG, WTO and DG, WIPO requesting an impact assessment of the extent to which ACTA, as proposed, exceeds obligations in the current IP instruments and excludes flexibilities and exceptions contained in them. Even the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently raised serious questions concerning the data that has been relied on by proponents of the ACTA to support the effort. IPR experts are increasingly challenging the concept of minimum standards concept and calling for setting maximum standards or ceilings so that there is (i) legal security and predictability about the boundaries of IP protection, (ii) protection of user’s rights and (iii) free movement of goods, services and information.

While India is committed to dealing with IPR enforcement issues in line with its TRIPS obligations, the introduction of intrusive IPRs enforcement rules applicable to goods and services in international trade does not represent a reasonable or realistic response. A response, if required, has to emerge from a multilateral and transparent process, as is available in the WTO TRIPS Council, and should fully conform to the objectives and principles (Art 7, 8 ) of TRIPS agreement and the balance of rights and obligations enshrined in the Agreement. As goods and services of developing countries are becoming competitive with those of developed country producers, TRIPS plus measures, like the ACTA, seek to introduce a new set of "non-tariff" barriers to trade that will preponderantly hinder developing country exporters. We urge developed country Members to keep these concerns in mind while dealing with IPR enforcement issues. Agreements such as ACTA have the portents to completely upset the balance of rights and obligations of the TRIPS Agreement. WTO cannot remain a silent observer to such a development. It is important that the issue is deliberated in this Council in detail.

Australian Senator Kate Lundy on ACTA

Australian Senator Kate Lundy on ACTA
Australian Senator Kate Lundy has posted a critique of ACTA, expressing concern about both its scope and secrecy.  Lundy endorses the Wellington Declaration as a good standard to apply to any IP trade policy consideration.

Australian Senator Kate Lundy has posted a critique of ACTA, expressing concern about both its scope and secrecy.  Lundy endorses the Wellington Declaration as a good standard to apply to any IP trade policy consideration.

Australian Senator Kate Lundy has posted a critique of ACTA, expressing concern about both its scope and secrecy.  Lundy endorses the Wellington Declaration as a good standard to apply to any IP trade policy consideration.

India Seeking Allies To Oppose ACTA

India Seeking Allies To Oppose ACTA
With the next round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations scheduled for later this month in Lucerne, Switzerland (governments have been painfully slow this round in confirming dates, location, and agenda), the global politics behind the agreement escalated over the weekend with Indian officials acknowledging that they plan to establish a coalition of government opposed to the agreement.  Reports indicate that a major concern involves the possible seizure of goods in transit, which raises access to medicines fears with the potential detention of generic pharmaceuticals. If India is able to line up a coalition of opposition - likely allies include Brazil, China, and Egypt - this will unquestionably escalate pressure on the ACTA countries to open the process.  I have previously argued that ACTA represents a major threat to WIPO and the Development Agenda.  The opposition from the U.S. and E.U. on a treaty for the visually impaired at a meeting last week in Geneva provides further evidence that with IP enforcement effectively removed from within WIPO's scope, those countries will have little incentive to advance the IP development concerns of the rest of the world.  While some may suggest that the opposition provides evidence that ACTA is on the right track, the reality is that ACTA is largely designed to apply to the very countries that are now preparing to openly oppose it.  There is no mechanism to "force" these countries to abide by ACTA standards.  The best approach to gaining broader acceptance is to include those countries in the talks, not leave them on the outside in the hope of later pressuring them to comply with an agreement from which they were deliberately excluded.

With the next round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations scheduled for later this month in Lucerne, Switzerland (governments have been painfully slow this round in confirming dates, location, and agenda), the global politics behind the agreement escalated over the weekend with Indian officials acknowledging that they plan to establish a coalition of government opposed to the agreement.  Reports indicate that a major concern involves the possible seizure of goods in transit, which raises access to medicines fears with the potential detention of generic pharmaceuticals.

If India is able to line up a coalition of opposition - likely allies include Brazil, China, and Egypt - this will unquestionably escalate pressure on the ACTA countries to open the process.  I have previously argued that ACTA represents a major threat to WIPO and the Development Agenda.  The opposition from the U.S. and E.U. on a treaty for the visually impaired at a meeting last week in Geneva provides further evidence that with IP enforcement effectively removed from within WIPO's scope, those countries will have little incentive to advance the IP development concerns of the rest of the world. 

While some may suggest that the opposition provides evidence that ACTA is on the right track, the reality is that ACTA is largely designed to apply to the very countries that are now preparing to openly oppose it.  There is no mechanism to "force" these countries to abide by ACTA standards.  The best approach to gaining broader acceptance is to include those countries in the talks, not leave them on the outside in the hope of later pressuring them to comply with an agreement from which they were deliberately excluded.

With the next round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations scheduled for later this month in Lucerne, Switzerland (governments have been painfully slow this round in confirming dates, location, and agenda), the global politics behind the agreement escalated over the weekend with Indian officials acknowledging that they plan to establish a coalition of government opposed to the agreement.  Reports indicate that a major concern involves the possible seizure of goods in transit, which raises access to medicines fears with the potential detention of generic pharmaceuticals.

If India is able to line up a coalition of opposition - likely allies include Brazil, China, and Egypt - this will unquestionably escalate pressure on the ACTA countries to open the process.  I have previously argued that ACTA represents a major threat to WIPO and the Development Agenda.  The opposition from the U.S. and E.U. on a treaty for the visually impaired at a meeting last week in Geneva provides further evidence that with IP enforcement effectively removed from within WIPO's scope, those countries will have little incentive to advance the IP development concerns of the rest of the world. 

While some may suggest that the opposition provides evidence that ACTA is on the right track, the reality is that ACTA is largely designed to apply to the very countries that are now preparing to openly oppose it.  There is no mechanism to "force" these countries to abide by ACTA standards.  The best approach to gaining broader acceptance is to include those countries in the talks, not leave them on the outside in the hope of later pressuring them to comply with an agreement from which they were deliberately excluded.

Rogers: We're Concerned With the ACTA Negotiations and Three Strikes

Rogers: We're Concerned With the ACTA Negotiations and Three Strikes
Rogers Communications appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and was asked by NDP MP Charlie Angus about their position on ACTA and ISP liability. Ken Englehart, Senior VP Regulatory, left little doubt about the company's concerns with ACTA and the possibility of a three-strikes and you're out model coming to Canada.

Rogers Communications appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and was asked by NDP MP Charlie Angus about their position on ACTA and ISP liability.  Ken Englehart, Senior VP Regulatory, left little doubt about the company's concerns with ACTA and the possibility of a three-strikes and you're out model coming to Canada:

We are concerned, as many ISPs are, about the ACTA negotiations. It's supposed to be about counterfeiting, but it seems to have gone way past counterfeiting to talking about issues of ISPs and the downloading activities of our customers. We don't think ISPs should be put in the position of being traffic cops to decide what is legal and what is not. We really hate any idea that we would have to terminate our customers' service on a three-strikes policy. We do not want to do that at all. I have a great deal of sympathy for the copyright holders who feel that their content is being stolen. It's a big problem. But I don't want to see this done by putting ISPs in the position of having to disconnect their customers or aid in the conviction of their customers.

When asked to expand on how ISPs and copyright holders strike the balance, Englehart focused on the effectiveness of the current notice-and-notice system, arguing that "those types of mechanisms should be exhausted before any kind of more Draconian measures are imposed."

Rogers Communications appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and was asked by NDP MP Charlie Angus about their position on ACTA and ISP liability.  Ken Englehart, Senior VP Regulatory, left little doubt about the company's concerns with ACTA and the possibility of a three-strikes and you're out model coming to Canada:

We are concerned, as many ISPs are, about the ACTA negotiations. It's supposed to be about counterfeiting, but it seems to have gone way past counterfeiting to talking about issues of ISPs and the downloading activities of our customers. We don't think ISPs should be put in the position of being traffic cops to decide what is legal and what is not. We really hate any idea that we would have to terminate our customers' service on a three-strikes policy. We do not want to do that at all. I have a great deal of sympathy for the copyright holders who feel that their content is being stolen. It's a big problem. But I don't want to see this done by putting ISPs in the position of having to disconnect their customers or aid in the conviction of their customers.

When asked to expand on how ISPs and copyright holders strike the balance, Englehart focused on the effectiveness of the current notice-and-notice system, arguing that "those types of mechanisms should be exhausted before any kind of more Draconian measures are imposed."

EC's ACTA Negotiator Devigne: Rejected U.S. "Blackmail"

EC's ACTA Negotiator Devigne: Rejected U.S. "Blackmail"
Luc Devigne, the European Commission's lead ACTA negotiator, recently appeared before the International Trade Committee which brought together Members of the European Parliament and ACTA negotiators.  Sources say Devigne revealed several key things: the release of the draft ACTA text may be a one-time deal. There are no current plans to release the updated text following future rounds of talks. Devigne reportedly told the MEPs that the EC successfully rejected U.S. "blackmail", a reference to U.S. demands for changes on the scope of ACTA in return for greater transparency. The U.S. ultimately agreed to the release of the text, while the scope issue remains unresolved. There is still no agreement on the ISP safe harbour provisions. Major disagreements in the criminal chapter include the definition of "commercial scale" (the U.S. wants it defined, the EU wants it left to national judges) and the inclusion of an anti-camcording provision. Disagreements on the civil enforcement chapter includes damages and scope.

Luc Devigne, the European Commission's lead ACTA negotiator, recently appeared before the International Trade Committee which brought together Members of the European Parliament and ACTA negotiators.  Sources say Devigne revealed several key things:

  • the release of the draft ACTA text may be a one-time deal. There are no current plans to release the updated text following future rounds of talks.
  • Devigne reportedly told the MEPs that the EC successfully rejected U.S. "blackmail", a reference to U.S. demands for changes on the scope of ACTA in return for greater transparency. The U.S. ultimately agreed to the release of the text, while the scope issue remains unresolved.
  • There is still no agreement on the ISP safe harbour provisions.
  • Major disagreements in the criminal chapter include the definition of "commercial scale" (the U.S. wants it defined, the EU wants it left to national judges) and the inclusion of an anti-camcording provision.
  • Disagreements on the civil enforcement chapter includes damages and scope.

ACTA: Worldwide Coverage and Analysis

ACTA: Worldwide Coverage and Analysis
ACTA continues to receive considerable analysis and coverage from bloggers around the globe: Australia Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement: Impact on Individuals and Intermediaries by the Australian Digital Alliance Opinion: The Devil is in ACTA's details by Matt Dawes at Itnews Activists sign petition to open up ACTA talks at itnews Australia comes clean on ACTA role at itnews ACTA: DMCA Mark II? by Kate Lundy ACTA – Australian Section by Section Analysis by Kimberlee G. Weatherall ACTA April 2010 - Analysis of Provisions by Kimberlee G. Weatherall ACTA: new (leaked) text, new issues... by Kimberlee G. Weatherall

ACTA continues to receive considerable analysis and coverage from bloggers around the globe: Australia

Brazil

Canada

Europe

France

Germany

India

International

Korea

The Netherlands

New Zealand

United States

United Kingdom

European Parliament Passes Resolution Calling on Canada To Support Moving ACTA to WIPO

European Parliament Passes Resolution Calling on Canada To Support Moving ACTA to WIPO
With the Canada - European Union summit underway this week, the European Parliament has just passed a resolution that calls on Canada to support even greater ACTA transparency and to shift the negotiations to an international organization such as WIPO. The full paragraph within the resolution states that the European Parliament: Hopes that Canada will fully support the EU's request to open up the ACTA negotiations to public scrutiny, as it requested in its resolution of 10 March 2010, and to have those negotiations conducted under the auspices of an international organisation, the most suitable being WIPO; In the aftermath of its success in promoting release of the ACTA draft text, it is interesting to see the European Parliament becoming increasingly vocal about the ACTA negotiations. Canada has remained generally silent on these issues and the EP resolution may help coax out a response.

With the Canada - European Union summit underway this week, the European Parliament has just passed a resolution that calls on Canada to support even greater ACTA transparency and to shift the negotiations to an international organization such as WIPO. The full paragraph within the resolution states that the European Parliament: Hopes that Canada will fully support the EU's request to open up the ACTA negotiations to public scrutiny, as it requested in its resolution of 10 March 2010, and to have those negotiations conducted under the auspices of an international organisation, the most suitable being WIPO; In the aftermath of its success in promoting release of the ACTA draft text, it is interesting to see the European Parliament becoming increasingly vocal about the ACTA negotiations. Canada has remained generally silent on these issues and the EP resolution may help coax out a response.

ALDE Hearing on ACTA in Brussels

ALDE Hearing on ACTA in Brussels
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a hearing on ACTA in Brussels sponsored by Members of the European Parliament Alexander Alvaro and Marietje Schaake. Other participants included Luc Devigne, the head of the European ACTA delegation, and representatives from eBay and EuroISPA. The full video of the hearing is posted below. My presentation begins just after the 5:00 minute mark.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a hearing on ACTA in Brussels sponsored by Members of the European Parliament Alexander Alvaro and Marietje Schaake.  Other participants included Luc Devigne, the head of the European ACTA delegation, and representatives from eBay and EuroISPA.  The full video of the hearing is posted below.  My presentation begins just after the 5:00 minute mark.