TPP Talks Hung Up On Intellectual Property Issues: Maybe Just Drop That Section

from the just-a-suggestion dept

For years, we’ve wondered (somewhat rhetorically*) why “intellectual property” issues are included in “free trade agreements” at all. By their very nature, intellectual property laws are the exact opposite of free trade. They are clearly protectionist restrictions on the use of information or content. You can argue that these restrictions serve a good reason, and that may (or may not) be true. But you can’t argue that they have anything to do with free trade (at least not if you’re being honest).

* Okay, so we actually know why they’re included, and it’s because the big legacy special interests in the intellectual property world — including the recording, movie and pharmaceutical industries, long ago realized that by getting intellectual property included in trade agreements they could force countries to pass laws they didn’t want. That’s because these trade agreements are conducted in near total secrecy, taking input directly from these industries, but then effectively binding countries to pass the new laws that these industries want. The wonderful, but depressing, book Information Feudalism by Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite goes deep in exploring how those big industries first began this effort — and it’s only gotten more intense in recent years.

And, of course, now that these industries have convinced trade negotiators that intellectual property is somehow a trade issue, it’s been a central issue in a variety of big trade agreements, including the TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, is the one that’s much further along, and despite promises that it would be completed quite a while ago, it’s still limping along. Apparently, at the most recent meeting the main stumbling block was… intellectual property.

Yes, it appears the countries are still fighting over the intellectual property chapter in the agreement:

In the meeting from March 9, they tried to reach compromises in seven contentious areas but remained apart on intellectual property protection periods for data on medicines.

Of course, there’s a simple solution here: drop the IP chapter from the TPP and focus on whatever (small) issues are actually holding back the rest of the agreement. If you’re going to create a trade agreement, why not have it focus on actual trade issues, rather than on increasing protectionist barriers that serve giant legacy industry players, but at the expense of the public?

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Comments on “TPP Talks Hung Up On Intellectual Property Issues: Maybe Just Drop That Section”

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Nop (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree completely. The people pushing this shit will never permit the exclusion of the IP or ISDS stuff, because that’s what the TPP IS FOR. They don’t care that much about the actual trade stuff, because its just a Trojan horse for subverting national sovereignty to the multinational corporations, as has nearly been completed in the uSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

No-Win Senario

The current IP laws being pushed by Big Business are BAD for EVERYONE including those pushing them. They are just incompetently ignorant of this.

For once the world leaders really NEED stand up and tell their “Masters” that this time they just can not ever pay enough to destroy everyone else for their greedy gains at this level.

But I suspect, that this will never happen.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Self-Defeating Argument

While I agree that the current direction of IP in free trade agreements is not good, this seems to be making the argument that free trade agreements should not include chapters on IP because it is “clearly protectionist restrictions on the use of information or content.”

That makes no sense. If IP is used for protecting local industry, than free trade agreements *absolutely should* include chapters covering this area.

It’s just that we need to flip the only thing on it’s head, and these chapters should focus on *limiting* IP, rather than extending it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Self-Defeating Argument


Another point is that IP is a non-uniform protection. While TRIPS makes some basic distinctions the interpretation and implementation is in the air. WIPO is more expansive, but still up for interpretation. Since sovereignty questions and fighting border-crossing crime has become a huge part of these agreements, IP is in no way unimportant for that aspect of the deal. Be aware that the primary reason to include IP is not about the specific law but to make it easier to agree on border-crossing cases.

The real problem is that noone involved in these negotiations really care about the adverse effects. That be whether it is in EU, USA or the rest of the world. IP is frequently at odds with technology/innovation/education and they certainly effect everyday life of consumers and the lack of someone to reel those effects in is ultimately why IP in trade deals are such a problem today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Are you actually FOR this?

“Of course, there’s a simple solution here: drop the IP chapter from the TPP and focus on whatever (small) issues are actually holding back the rest of the agreement.”


Again, I just don’t know where you stand on this. I can’t come up with any good reason you’d URGE passage in ANY version or degree.

This is definitely NOT in the least promoting “free” trade except in the sense that frees corporations from pesky laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Drop IP” isn’t a solution. From what I’ve read there’s only about 5 chapters dealing with actual tangible trade issues. The other 31 involve soveriegnty, rights, and basically – public policies.

The TPP is an end run around democracy. We should call it that and nothing else. It is not about trade.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: The TPP is an end run around democracy. We should call it that and nothing else. It is not about trade.

How can you tell it’s not about trade? Nobody has seen it.

It could be about anything at all or nothing.

As for being an “end run around democracy”, well is that necessarily a bad thing? Look at our democratically-elected Congress…

John Nemesh (profile) says:

Still problems, even without IP issues

Sure, they should cut out the IP language completely. But then you still have the “corporate sovereignty” issues, which also need to be cut. Then there is the rest of the treaty, which is still problematic for American workers. No one remembers what happened the LAST time a huge “Free Trade” agreement was passed? (NAFTA) Oh yeah, we lost the textile industry, the furniture manufacturing industry, and many many more…jobs went “WHOOSH!” right out of the country, along with many people’s chance of remaining in the middle class!

Pragmatic says:

Re: Still problems, even without IP issues

The dismantling of the middle class is actually the goal. The last thing they want is a plethora of educated, thinking people who might present some competition for the incumbents.

Widening the gap between the very rich and the very poor is the most effective way to impose and maintain control.

Anonymous Coward says:

and stop putting pharma profits before medicine costs and people’s lives!! if the cost is too high, people cant afford to buy and therefore die. if that is the option favored, rather than selling medicines cheaper and keeping people alive, the companies need to be condemned. on top of that, as the majority of companies of every sort are situated in the USA, the obvious reason for favoring the deals is to give the USA an advantage over everyone else. that can only turn out bad! no country would be able to compete with the USA on anything! other countries would end up being completely indebted to the USA, have population numbers plummet and be ripe for being overun by the USA!!

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