Patents, Trademarks And Copyrights Have No Place In Trade Agreements

from the it's-not-a-matter-of-trade dept

As we've discussed before, one of the sneakier moves of the content industry (and, later, the pharmaceutical industry) was to jump into the international trade process, to circumvent national governments and to effectively force them into passing laws that they liked. We've been raising concerns about this whole process, and it appears that many public interest/civil service groups agree. With the US and Europe getting ready to start negotiations on a "trans-atlantic free trade agreement" (TAFTA), a large group of public interest/civil service groups have teamed up to issue a declaration that "intellectual property" has no place in free trade agreements. It also demands much more transparency in any negotiation.
First, we insist that the European Union and United States release, in timely and ongoing fashion, any and all negotiating or pre-negotiation texts. We believe that secretive “trade” negotiations are absolutely unacceptable forums for devising binding rules that change national non-trade laws.

Second, we insist that the proposed TAFTA exclude any provisions related to patents, copyright, trademarks, data protection, geographical indications, or other forms of so-called “intellectual property”. Such provisions could impede our rights to health, culture, and free expression and otherwise affect our daily lives.

Past trade agreements negotiated by the US and EU have significantly increased the privileges of multinational corporations at the expense of society in general. Provisions in these agreements can, among many other concerns, limit free speech, constrain access to educational materials such as textbooks and academic journals, and, in the case of medicines, raise healthcare costs and contribute to preventable suffering and death.

Unless “intellectual property” is excluded from these talks, we fear that the outcome will be an agreement that inflicts the worst of both regimes’ rules on the other party. From a democratic perspective, we believe that important rules governing technology, health, and culture should be debated in the US Congress, the European Parliament, national parliaments, and other transparent forums where all stakeholders can be heard—not in closed negotiations that give privileged access to corporate insiders.

The TAFTA negotiations must not lead to a rewriting of patent and copyright rules in a way that tilts the balance even further away from the interests of citizens.
Frankly, they could go much further in their statement. As we've pointed out for years, things like patents and copyrights are the exact opposite of "free trade." They are, by definition, restrictions on free trade -- and a form of protectionism. If the goal of a free trade agreement is to remove those kinds of restrictions and ease the flow of trade between nations, it seems incredibly strange to bundle it with blatant mercantilist concepts of protectionism and monopolies.
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Filed Under: acta, civil service, copyright, patents, public interest, tafta, tpp, trade agreements, trademark


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  1. icon
    special-interesting (profile), 20 Mar 2013 @ 6:25am

    Wow! I so totally agree with this. Inducements for original-work creation is 100% a domestic concern. What dose anyone care how other foreign entities (countries, TPP, TAFTA, TRIPS, ect) treat or abuse their artists and media firms?

    Wouldn't any such agreements intrude upon free trade anyway. If I understand right aren't all these agreements are, in reality, based on protectionism and written in ways we would misunderstand as laymen? Its been of lately a hallmark that all bills submitted to congress have some cool sounding name or acronym that implies some benefit where the text of the bill is written by special interest groups (thus writing law that mean exactly opposite of the name). So why trust any of that?

    Furthermore. All these funny foreign agreements have been negotiated in secret and by default that means someone else's rights are trampling on mine.

    This is a much better phrased argument that your Senator or Representative might understand. At least I do. (and I don't understand much!)

    Shameless plug: It might even offer the opportunity to suggest the self consistent socially and culturally defensible argument that; Original-works (some might say copyright) must have terms less than the lives of who we teach them to (our kids) so that they can actually use the wisdom we shared with them before they die. (this is not my idea only my words and phrasing)

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