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American Shipper

Countries intensify battle against counterfeit goods

Countries intensify battle against counterfeit goods

Nine countries have agreed to negotiate a treaty that they said should take the battle against trade in counterfeit goods to the next level.

   The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was announced on Tuesday, will cover three areas:

   ' Strengthening international cooperation.

   ' Improving enforcement practices.

   ' Providing a strong legal framework for intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement.

   No precise deadline has been set to conclude the negotiations. However, the concepts have been vetted with multiple countries and the U.S. government said it’s eager to participate.

   “Global counterfeiting and piracy steal billions of dollars from workers, artists and entrepreneurs each year and jeopardize the health and safety of citizens across the world,” said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, in a statement. “The United States looks forward to partnering with many of our key trading partners to combat this global problem.”

   Other countries that agreed to join ACTA include Canada, the European Union (with its 27 member states), Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland. They hope to encourage developing countries to join the effort.

   The Bush administration said ACTA complements its work with other countries to meet the enforcement standards of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organization, and to comply with other international IPR agreements.

   “It will not involve any changes to the TRIPS Agreement,” the administration said. “Rather, the goal is to set a new, higher benchmark for enforcement that countries can join on a voluntary basis. The negotiations represent a cooperative effort by the governments involved, and will not be conducted as part of any international organization.”

   Numerous industry groups backed the initiative, such as the National Foreign Trade Council, U.S. Council for International Business, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the International Chamber of Commerce.

   “This new trade agreement builds on the important outcome declarations of the past three G8 Summits and is a tangible sign that governments have elected to take these issues seriously, elevate their attention to the problem of intellectual property theft, and implement corrective measures,” said Jean-Rene Fourtou, chairman of the supervisory board of Vivendi and co-chairman of the ICC’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP). “This agreement should supplement provisions in existing trade agreements and in national and regional government legislation and enforcement efforts.”

   BASCAP officials called on the governments that signed the agreement to move rapidly to translate the provisions into “concrete actions.” They cited several examples of immediate actions that could be taken, such as steps to ensure that penalties for intellectual property theft at least match existing legal penalties for theft of physical merchandise, and that these penalties be applied to both online and offline transactions. They also cited the need to empower and fund enforcement agencies and the judiciary to enable them to implement stronger regulations and provisions for punishment.

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