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EU Parliament backs ACTA with few reservations

Still need more clarity though

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The European Parliament has welcomed a controversial international intellectual property treaty as a "step in the right direction" but has reiterated calls for clarity on the impact of the law on existing EU rights.

The Parliament rejected the chance to adopt a much more critical stance of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a treaty being negotiated between countries including the US, Mexico, Japan, Korea and others.

It voted against a resolution that said that it "deplored" the fact that the treaty was negotiated by just a handful of selected countries and that questioned its very legal basis.

Instead the Parliament voted to adopt a resolution that said that it welcomed changes that were made to satisfy its previous demands and that it would help EU countries to export with less fear of meeting infringing activity abroad.

"[The Parliament] is fully aware that the agreement negotiated will not solve the complex and multi-dimensional problem of counterfeiting; [but] considers, however, that it is a step in the right direction," said the resolution.

The treaty has been controversial because of secrecy surrounding its negotiation; because it operates outside of existing trade bodies the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO); and because earlier drafts reportedly sought to impose measures which could interfere with individuals' rights.

The EU Parliament, though, said that it was happy with the actions taken since it criticised the process in March, when it threatened to take the European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of the EU, to court if it did not share more information about the process.

"After strong representations by Parliament, the level of transparency of the ACTA negotiations was fundamentally improved and, since the negotiating round in New Zealand, Parliament has been fully informed of the course of the negotiations," it said.

"The negotiated text reflects the main concerns expressed by Parliament over recent months, including on issues such as the observance of fundamental rights, privacy and data protection, respect for the important role of free Internet, the importance of safeguarding the role of service providers, and the need to safeguard access to medicines," said the resolution.

The Parliament said that the treaty would be of use to European exporters.

"[The Parliament] considers ACTA as a tool for making the existing standards more effective, thus benefiting EU exports and protecting right-holders when they operate in the global market, where they currently suffer systematic and widespread infringement of their copyrights, trademarks, patents, designs and GIs [geographical indicators]," it said.

The Parliament voted against a much more critical resolution which said that "clarification of the legal basis for ACTA is needed", and demanded that the European Commission conduct assessments of the treaty's compliance with a number of EU laws covering data protection, software, e-commerce and intellectual property.

The adopted resolution still contained one request for more clarity on these issues, though.

"[The Parliament] calls on the Commission to confirm that ACTA’s implementation will have no impact on fundamental rights and data protection, on the ongoing EU efforts to harmonise IPR enforcement measures, or on e-commerce," it said.

See: The resolution

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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