The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) [official website] and other participating countries on Wednesday released a draft [text, PDF] of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [USTR backgrounder], an international pact to defend intellectual property rights from counterfeit and piracy. The draft was released after three years [JURIST report] and 10 rounds of negotiations among the ACTA parties, which include the EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Korea, representing more than 50 percent of world trade. The agreement would establish a framework for combating counterfeiting and piracy of commercial goods that encourages international cooperation as well as strong enforcement practices. The draft agreement lays out provisions regarding both civil and criminal remedies such as imprisonment, administrative penalties, injunctions and payment of damages. The draft also contains provisions relating to border control, which include giving customs authorities the right to suspend shipments of suspect goods and destroy counterfeit goods. The agreement would ensure that the framework regarding infringement protection and enforcement is also applicable to trade in the digital environment. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk [official profile] applauded the agreement [statement] as "a significant victory":
This text reflects tremendous progress in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy - a global crime wave that robs workers in the United States and around the world of good-paying jobs and exposes consumers to dangerous products. The leadership shown by our ACTA partners ... should send a strong message to pirates and counterfeiters that they have no place in the channels of legitimate trade.The most recent round of revisions to the agreement took place last week in Tokyo. Participating countries agreed to further examine the document and plan to finalize the text of the agreement as soon as possible. The agreement will undergo a final review before it is opened for signatures. Notably, China, a source of many of the world's counterfeit goods, is not a participant [Reuters report] in the agreement or discussions.
In May, Canada and Mexico, both parties to the agreement, were named two of the worst countries [JURIST report] for protecting copyrighted information by the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus [official website]. The USTR also named Canada as one of the countries on its Priority Watch List [JURIST report] for not adequately protecting intellectual property rights. US-based company eBay [corporate website] has recently come under international fire for its trading practices and has been accused of trafficking counterfeit products. In February, a French district court ordered the company [JURIST report] to pay LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton [corporate website] USD $275,000 in damages for paying search engines to direct customers to counterfeit Louis Vuitton products. Last month, a French appeals court upheld a 2008 decision [JURIST reports] against the company for its role in selling counterfeit goods, but reduced the amount of damages. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled that the online auction house is not required to actively monitor its website [JURIST report] for the sale of counterfeit goods.