G8 Governments Want ACTA Finalised This Year, SPLT Talks Accelerated 09/07/2008 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch Despite issues like the current food, energy and climate crises having taken centre stage at this week’s Group of 8 summit in Japan, governments did not lose sight of earlier plans to promote and more strictly protect intellectual property rights. The eight leaders in their document on the “World Economy” called for finalising negotiations of the much-debated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) by the end of the year and also declared patent harmonisation a topic of high importance, asking for “accelerated discussions of the Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT)”. The SPLT did not see much progress in several negotiating rounds at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in recent years, but has resurfaced this year as a possible negotiating topic for 2009. On ACTA, the United States, Japan, Switzerland and the European Union chose to avoid lengthy debates at multilateral fora. The pointed call for the finalisation of ACTA by year’s end in the final economic document of the annual summit mirrors earlier statements by US negotiators about quick negotiations and also an apparent Japanese wish as host country to sign ACTA as one of the successful outcomes of the Hokkaido G8 summit. But European negotiators some weeks ago declared that membership of G8 and the ACTA negotiating group were different and therefore ACTA was no topic for the G8, and that more time was needed to settle issues with regard to civil law and criminal law sanctions contained in ACTA proposals. In general, ACTA will bring according to its advocates, better international cooperation, enforcement practices and a legal framework update including expanded competencies of border authorities. Neither Australia, Switzerland, Jordan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco or Mexico are G8 members, but they are participating in the ACTA as partners who are expected to meet for a second round of official negotiations later this month. G8 member Russia, on the other hand, did not participate in the ACTA meetings. It was no surprise, said one non-governmental organisation representative, that ACTA had been pushed as one of the “existing anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiatives.” This was a commitment by G8 leaders at the 2007 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. G8 leaders also applauded the development of the non-binding “Standards to be Employed by Customs for Uniform Rights Enforcement” (SECURE [pdf]) at the World Customs Organization (WCO), which are documented as “provisional” in a June 2007 paper by the WCO. SECURE is a big step towards a “TRIPS-plus-plus” regime, according to a recently published analysis on maximalist IP approaches by Susan Sell, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Institute for Global and International Studies at George Washington University. TRIPS refers to the 1994 World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. ACTA would, wrote Sell, extend “the scope from import to export, transit, warehouses, transshipment, free zones, and export processing zones;” and “extends protection from trademark and copyright to all other types of IP rights.” It also would, she said, “remove the obligations of rights holders to provide adequate evidence that there is prima facie an infringement to initiate a procedure” and give “Customs administrations the legal authority to impose deterrent penalties against entities knowingly involved in the export or import of goods which violate any IPR laws.” Sell in speaking with Intellectual Property Watch also was highly critical of ACTA because of its attempt to bypass international policymaking fora like WIPO or the WTO that would allow inclusive negotiations, participation of critical NGOs and transparency. To subsume tainted heparin, exploding mobile phones, and copies of copyright-protected DVDs under one big tent and make it an issue of national security is misleading, she said. With regard to the promotion of ACTA negotiations in the G8 declaration it was unclear if preliminary drafts were presented during the meeting. So far, ACTA proposals have been discussed behind closed doors by the negotiating governments with only an official draft discussion paper and several industry statements leaked. On Tuesday, the Austrian Broadcasting station reported on a statement of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) that asked for equal treatment of piracy and theft of physical goods. Interestingly, ACTA was not mentioned in the project list of the G8 Expert Group on Intellectual Property. This list contained the following proposals: “Understanding the economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy” (OECD followup study to economic effects of piracy) “Reaffirming the importance of global patent harmonisation and the realisation of an international patent collaboration to create an environment most conducive for innovation” (accelerated SPLT debate) “Technical assistance” “Raising public awareness for combating counterfeiting and piracy in the global society” “Sharing of successful experience linking IP and business” Most of the issues were reflected in the World Economy Document. WHO satisfied with G8 results The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, welcomed the G8 agreements and the “commitment to full, annual measurements of progress in meeting their pledges to improve global health.” WHO Director General Margaret Chan stated: “Many noble commitments have been made over the last decade to support health. And now G8 nations are saying they will ensure an accounting of those promises every year. This is commendable. WHO and its partners will do everything possible to support their efforts.” To fight infectious diseases, US$60 billion were decided to be spent over the coming five years. The G8 also agreed that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by the United Nations in 2000, should be supported in a comprehensive manner. Major commitments are, according to the WHO: “to greatly increase progress on maternal, newborn and child health” “to reaffirm, sustain and extend previous commitments on HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as on polio and neglected tropical diseases;” “to strengthen health systems, including social health protection and building an adequate health workforce with a voluntary code of practice regarding ethical recruitment of health workers.” In what way stricter IP and patent regimes might affect possible progress in global health has not been discussed so far by observers and participants. Neglected diseases are the target of a new innovation and IP initiative at the WHO. Another major result of the Hokkaido meeting is the agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050. President Bush finally agreed to such a deadline for CO2 emissions. Monika Ermert may be reached at email@example.com. 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