ACTA: When Intellectual Property Threatens the Health of the Poor... The EIPR Warns: the Agreement may Create New International Trade Policies

Press Release

13 December 2010

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) issued today a briefing note on the latest Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) text. The paper presents the risk that the plurilateral agreement poses to public health, as the Agreement seeks to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The latest text – released to the public after the final round of negotiations on 2 October 2010 – if adopted by the negotiating countries as is, would surpass the international standards set forth by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the 1995 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The EIPR announced that establishing more stringent standards in the enforcement of intellectual property rights threatens the ability of individuals to access medicines, particularly those in developing countries.

Negotiations for the Agreement, which started in October 2007, have been held in secret and only among a select few countries (which does not include Egypt), led by the United States and European Union countries. The negotiating states hope to adopt the Agreement by the end of 2010.

The briefing note issued by the EIPR presents some of the provisions of the draft Agreement which may threaten the right to health and the right to access medicines. More specifically, the note asses

ses the risk of enforcing customs procedures for trademark protection and procedures for civil enforcement of intellectual property rights including patent rights. The EIPR, along with a number of organizations defending the right to health and consumer rights around the world, see that such measures may hamper the trade in generic drugs which meet quality, safety and efficacy standards. This is also likely to affect their availability, in particular in developing countries that rely mostly on such drugs on account of their relatively low prices compared to the prices of patented originator brands. The note also highlights the economic burden that the Agreement places on the public to protect intellectual property rights, which are essentially private rights.

A growing number of non-governmental organizations, including the EIPR, have criticized the secrecy with which the participating states held the ACTA negotiations. EIPR stressed that, in light of the complexity of international trade, the impact of such plurilateral agreements extends to more than just the states signatory to the Agreement itself, and in many cases such agreements lead to the development of new trade policies on the international arena.

Finally, the briefing note commends the positive role played by civil society from all over the world in the fight against the ACTA and in defending the right to health. These efforts have led, most notably, to the removal of provisions from previous texts of the Agreement imposing a range of custom procedures for the enforcement of patent rights.

This paper is the second in a series of briefing notes by the Right to Health program at the EIPR issued periodically around issues in which health, trade and intellectual property rights intersect. The briefing notes aim to increase public awareness of developments in the field of health policies related to trade and intellectual property rights, on the domestic and international levels, including developments within the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The first in this series issued by the EIPR is the briefing note on "International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce" (IMPACT).

To read the briefing note in Arabic click here.