The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

What is the Proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)?

In 2007 a select handful of the wealthiest countries began a treaty-making process to create a new global standard for intellectual property rights enforcement, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).  ACTA is spearheaded by the United States, the European Commission, Japan, and Switzerland — those countries with the largest intellectual property industries.  Other countries invited to participate in ACTA’s negotiation process are Canada, Australia, Korea, Mexico and New Zealand.  Noticeably absent from ACTA’s negotiations are leaders from developing countries who hold national policy priorities that differ from the international intellectual property industry.

After the multi-lateral treaty’s scope and priorities are negotiated by the few countries invited to participate in the early discussions, ACTA’s text will be “locked” and other countries who are later “invited” to sign-on to the pact will not be able to re-negotiate its terms.  It is claimed that signing-on to the trade agreement will be "voluntary", but few countries will have the muscle to refuse an “invitation” to join, once the rules have been set by the select few conducting the negotiations.
The US is negotiating ACTA through the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), an office within the Bush Administration that has concluded more than 10 “free trade” agreements in recent years, all of which require both the US and the other country to increase intellectual property rights enforcement measures beyond the international legal norms in the WTO-TRIPS Agreement.
On 21 April 2010, the USTR released a proposed consolidated text of the ACTA treaty, although much remains in brackets (without agreement from the negotiating parties).  Sean Flynn has published a legal analysis of the released ACTA draft on the PIJIP ACTA IP Enforcement Database, which hosts a wealth of information on ACTA.
On 16-18 June 2010, 90 international experts from 5 continents, including legal academics, public interest organizations, practitioners met to discuss the public interest aspects of the ACTA agreement and drafted an International Civil Society Declaration to raise the public interest concerns.  Details for endorsing the declaration are available from  American University Washington College of Law / PIJIP, which hosted the meeting in Washington, DC (view webcast).
As of January 2009, no draft text had been published to provide the public with substance of the proposed international treaty, although a “Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” was reportedly provided to select lobbyists in the intellectual property industry, but not to public interest organizations concerned with the subject matter of the proposed treaty.  ( Wikileaks posted the leaked ACTA discussion paper on 22 May 2008).