The European Commission is seeking a mandate from various European member states to negotiate a new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with countries such as the US, Korea, Mexico, Japan and New Zealand.
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said that the goal of the new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is to provide a high level international framework that strengthens the global enforcement of intellectual property rights.
He said it would also help protect consumers from the health and safety risks associated with many counterfeit products.
“Europe has always been at the forefront of global attempts to protect intellectual property rights and fight counterfeiting,” Mandelson explained.
“A new international anti-counterfeiting treaty will strengthen global co-operation and establish new international norms, helping to create a new global gold standard on intellectual property rights enforcement.”
Increased co-operation through ACTA, he said, would lead to harmonised standards and better communication between authorities, leading to better coordination.
It would also establish common enforcement practise to promote strong intellectual property protection.
The EU, Mandelson said, is consistently pushing countries like China to enforce anti-counterfeiting legislation and to toughen the legal penalties for intellectual property theft. “Closer co-ordination on international benchmarks can reinforce this pressure.”
ACTA would also create a strong modern legal framework which reflects the changing nature of intellectual property theft in the global economy, including the rise of easy-to-copy digital storage mediums and the increasing danger of health threats from counterfeit food and pharmaceutical drugs.
Twenty years ago, counterfeiting might have been regarded as a problem chiefly for the makers of luxury goods.
In the Eighties, 70pc of firms affected by counterfeiting were in this sector. But in 2006, more than 1.6 million counterfeit cosmetics/personal care products and 1.2 million foodstuffs and beverages were seized at the EU’s external border, out of a total of 130 million fake objects — an increase of 40pc since 2005.
There are also fake airplane parts, electrical appliances and toys. But most worrying is the booming trade in counterfeit medicines of which more than 2.7 million were intercepted at EU borders in 2006, and which are reckoned to account for almost 10pc of world trade in medicines. Most of these fake drugs are headed for the world’s poorest countries.
The OECD released a new study in 2007 that estimates that the annual value of international physical trade in counterfeited consumer goods $200 billion, an amount equivalent to 2pc of world trade and higher than the GDP of 150 countries.
By John Kennedy