from the no-wonder-they-were-hiding-it dept
But the problems with the TPP run deep: Despite earlier promises from both the USTR and Australia that intellectual property would not be subject to the "corporate sovereignty" provisions (which they call "investor state dispute settlement" or ISDS), they absolutely are. And this is a massive problem. It means that any country that's a member of the TPP can effectively never move its intellectual property rules in the direction of better benefiting the public -- because some foreign company will claim that this takes away their expected profits. Section 9.1 lists "intellectual property" as the type of asset that is a part of the ISDS process.
We already know what a mess this can create. Remember Eli Lilly is currently using NAFTA's corporate sovereignty provisions to demand half a billion dollars from Canada, after Canada rejected two of its patents because Canada realized the drugs that Eli Lilly had tried to patent did not deliver the benefits the company claimed when trying to get the patent. Canada said that was a good reason to reject the patent. Eli Lilly claimed that this was taking away its assets and demanded half a billion dollars.
Now imagine what would happen if anyone tried to... say... shorten copyright terms? Or require registration for copyright? Or fix the patent system so that you can't patent obvious and broad concepts any more? Does anyone doubt that any country that did so would be beset by these kinds of attacks, which wouldn't even be handled by courts, but by a tribunal of corporate lawyers, often the very same lawyers these companies would hire for other work? Including intellectual property in the investment chapter is a poison pill designed to ensure that intellectual property can only continue to ratchet up, rather than back.
Now, there is a very limited "exception" concerning the "revocation, limitation or creation of intellectual property rights" if it's "consistent" with the TRIPS Agreement -- an earlier trade agreement regarding intellectual property. As KEI notes, this limited exception isn't going to cut it:
The exceptions for intellectual property in the TPP investment chapter are important, and often designed to accommodate existing state practice in the United States or other countries, but one should not overstate the degree to which intellectual property rights are excluded. The meaning of the WTO TRIPS agreement and the TPP IP Chapter itself will be subject to review and arbitration led by private right holders, on topics such as "adequate" or "reasonable" compensation or remuneration for non-voluntary uses of intellectual property rights, the standards for granting patents, and other issues, to determine "to the extent" an action of policy is "consistent" with the TRIPS or the TPP IP Chapter. This not only leads to forum shopping (TRIPS and TPP IP obligations can be interpreted via TPP ISDS), but also empowers private right holder investors (and not consumers) to bring cases and benefit from sanctions against governments.KEI also notes that these "exceptions" don't apply to any of the new expanded IP requirements that the TPP has introduced -- including things like much higher damages requirements and the possibilities of criminal charges for the vaguely defined "commercial scale" infringement.
What's kind of amazing here is that we've spent years warning about problems with the "intellectual property" chapter and the "investment" chapter individually, and the absolute worst part of this agreement is the way the negotiators tied them together in a ridiculous and dangerous way. This is much, much worse than many of the things we feared would be in the agreement, and it's made even worse by the fact that the USTR directly promised this would not be in the agreement.
There are a number of other problems as well: KEI warns that at least part of the e-commerce provision can be read to ban a requirement for open source software, which would seem to undermine certain open source licenses, like the GPL. Michael Geist notes that the document confirms that Canada basically has agreed to wipe out many useful copyright reforms from a few years ago, and to extend its copyrights yet again, robbing the public of the public domain. Of course, that raises the question of whether or not someone could make an ISDS claim that Canada is taking away their "investment" in Canada... Oh, who am I kidding. ISDS doesn't apply to the public... just to companies.
There are also, as expected, serious problems for affordable medicine and healthcare, privacy, surveillance and more. Despite claiming to demand "nondiscriminatory treatment of digital products" and "cross border transfer by electric means" of information -- an anti-censorship/blocking provision -- the agreement lets Malaysia off the hook on such requirements.
In addition to that, last month we wrote about how it appeared that the negotiators had carved tobacco out of the ISDS section, but upon reading the whole thing, people are pointing out that it's not actually true, as it makes that part voluntary for countries to decide themselves.
In short, the TPP appears to be a massive mess, and in some ways worse than we feared. According to some, concurrent with the release, President Obama told Congress of his intent to sign the TPP, which started the 90-day clock for Congress to "review" the agreement -- conveniently making sure that much of the debate is limited by the end-of-the-year holidays, long Congressional "recesses" that happen around this time, and other key end-of-the-year business. In short, this agreement that was negotiated in near total secrecy (unless you were a big corporate lobbyist) is a really bad deal, and the administration is going to play every trick it can come up with to get it approved. Now would be a good time to let your elected officials know that they need to vote against the TPP.