By Trevor Little
July 04 2012
The European Parliament has voted to reject the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Despite a last-minute request to delay the vote, Parliament had its say – with 478 votes for the ‘no’ camp. In response, the International Trademark Association (INTA) and International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) have urged the countries that have negotiated and signed ACTA to continue their efforts to ratify the trade agreement.
In May the European Commission asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) to rule on whether the treaty violates European legislation, in a bid to enhance the ability of MEPs to negotiate the contents of the treaty. Despite calls for today’s vote to be postponed – and a last-minute EEP attempt to delay the vote and refer back to the International Trade Committee (which was rejected), today 478 voted ‘no’, ‘39’ yes and there were 165 abstentions.
While the vote sounds the death knell of ACTA in Europe, Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, stated that the referral to the ECJ stands. In a speech given yesterday he had stated: “What is true is that, if Parliament votes this treaty down, the Commission will continue to wait for the opinion of the court and study it closely. Why? Because citizens have raised concerns over its potential impact on fundamental rights, because many of you have raised similar questions – so let's get some answers. I consider it my obligation, my responsibility as European Commissioner – indeed the responsibility of us all – to ask for clarity from Europe's highest court.”
In the wake of the vote against INTA and BASCAP have urged the countries that have negotiated and signed ACTA to continue their efforts to ratify the trade agreement, arguing that today’s vote was “heavily influenced by misinformation and rumors, ultimately leaving EU businesses and citizens with one less weapon to fight against the growing problems of trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy”.
The associations therefore urged other signatories to not allow “similar, misleading reports to distract them from the efforts to protect innovators, creators, manufacturers and consumers from counterfeiting and piracy” – with Alan C. Drewsen, executive director of INTA, stating: “The international community has the opportunity to support an important treaty that improves intellectual property standards across multiple borders.”
Looking ahead, Jeffrey Hardy, director of ICC-BASCAP, points to three steps that “need to be taken at this point. First, the EU must iron out the handful of concerns that prevent the world’s largest exporter from participating in the most significant anti-counterfeiting treaty. Second, the signatories need to ratify ACTA. Third, the negotiating parties need to begin the process of expanding ACTA through cooperative meetings with other countries, particularly those with less stringent intellectual property enforcement.”
While ACTA has stumbled in Europe, the debate over the treaty is clearly not yet over.
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