ACTA briefing by De Gucht in the European Parliament

This week, the European Commission conducted two briefings for members of the European Parliament.

On Monday, July 12, members of the European Parliament’s INTA Committee (Committee on International Trade) were briefed by EU ACTA negotiators Luc Devigne and Pedro Valesco in a private, closed meeting.

Today, July 13, Karel De Gucht, EU Commissioner for Trade held a public briefing in the LIBE Committee (Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs). The video is now available here

During the meeting, De Gucht informed that the next round of negotiations will take place at the end of this month in Washington DC. Other sources in Brussels have also informed that a negotiating round is also tentatively planned for Japan in September. Brief notes prepared by Ante Wessels (FFII) and Malini Aisola (KEI) are included at the end of the post.

Some noteworthy instances with video timestamps are below:

  • De Gucht on detention of generic medicines and reference to India and Brazil actions at WTO and ACTA (5:00 minutes)
  • MEP Ska Keller’s intervention on public access to documents, information about which party opposed the text’s public release during the Lucerne round; ask for impact studies for access to medicines or technology transfer; raises concerns about patents in the civil enforcement section and injunctions provisions in ACTA that are more restrictive than TRIPS, still a threat for access to medicines; need for safeguard guarantees in the text (at 13:25 minutes)
  • De Gucht on transparency and party opposing transparency (20:30 minutes)
  • De Gucht response on ACTA’s impact on access to medicines and reference to Indian WTO case on seizures (at 23:30 minutes)
  • De Gucht messy response on impact studies (25 minutes)
  • De Gucht on “hypocrisy” of the US, disagreement over inclusion of geographical indicators and industrial designs in ACTA (28 minutes)
  • De Gucht on ACTA being about public health, countering dangerous substances, purchase of medicines over the Internet (33:10 minutes)
  • MEP Albrecht’s question about safeguards in EU law (38:30 minutes) and need for safeguards and exceptions in ACTA (41:40 minutes)
  • Removal of the definition of “commercial scale” from ACTA (41:45) responding to question from MEP Lambrinidis (36:30 minutes)
  • De Gucht regarding explicit reference to TRIPS safeguards (45:50 minutes)
  • Brief notes of the meeting

    Main points:

    ++ Next round of negotiations will take place at the end of July in Washington DC
    ++ Patents removed from border measures and criminal enforcement
    ++ Definition of “commercial scale” will be removed from ACTA
    ++ Disagreements about inclusion of Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (GIs) favored by the EU and opposed by the US are straining negotiations
    ++ Impact assessments of ACTA such as on access to medicines and technology transfer are not of “any use”, says De Gucht
    ++ MEPs stress the need for inserting safeguards in the text of ACTA
    ++ MEPs will receive access to the text, under certain restrictions

    Commissioner De Gucht briefed the Parliament on the latest 9th round negotiation of ACTA that took place in Lucerne, Switzerland from June 28-July 1. He emphasized the importance of ACTA for EU competitiveness. ACTA will only address large scale infringements with significant commercial impact. Patents have been removed from the border measures and criminal enforcement sections. Therefore ACTA cannot intefere with access to medicine, De Gucht concluded.

    Progress was made during the negotiations, but more rounds are needed before completion. No new provisions were added to the text. The most significant area of disagreement concerned the scope of ACTA with the EU pushing for the inclusion of GIs and industrial designs and the US opposing the expansion of ACTA beyond copyrights and trademarks. De Gucht indicated that this was a “red line” issue for the EU presenting the inclusion of GIs/industrial designs as the only added advantage of ACTA for the EU, especially in light of the US’ hypocritical position of protecting their GIs under the guise of trademarks in recent US FTAs.

    The Commission has transmitted the text to the Parliament, members of parliament (MEPs) can receive the current ACTA text under certain restrictions.

    In responding to questions from MEPs, De Gucht shared that the adoption and implementation of “three-strikes” policies will be left to the discretion of Member States.

    MEP Ska Keller, explaining the importance of transparency, pointed out that the March 10 Parliament Resolution demanded public access to the text. She requested to be informed about which party opposed the text’s public release during the Lucerne round and asked for impact studies in the areas of access to medicines and technology transfer for climate change technologies. She also raised concerns about the retention of patents in the civil enforcement section and about injunctions provisions in ACTA that are more restrictive than in the TRIPS agreement, which would continue to pose a threat to access to medicines. Finally, she stressed the need for safeguard guarantees in the text of ACTA and whether the Commission intended to include them. MEP Albrecht also repeated the importance of inserting safeguards into ACTA.

    De Gucht denied any impact on access to medicines and made reference to India and Brazil in the context of their WTO dispute settlement actions over the seizure of in-transit generic drugs.

    He dismissed impact studies as bearing no significance or influence on the ACTA text because ACTA would address only procedural and not material law – ACTA is only about enforcement, not about changing IP laws.

    Informing about the sole delegation that opposed transparency during the Lucerne round, De Gucht referenced previous positions on transparency which point to the United States.

    In an exchange with MEP Lambrinidis, De Gucht indicated that the definition of “commercial scale” would not be in the final version of ACTA. In implementing ACTA, Member States would have to rely on national laws and court rulings.


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