Following the latest round of talks – held in Seoul earlier this month – the participating countries will meet in Mexico in the New Year in line with their aim of finalising the agreement text in the early part of 2010.
Countries that attended the sixth round of negotiations, hosted by the Republic of Korea, included Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore and the US. The European Union, meanwhile, was represented by delegates from the European Commission, the EU Presidency – currently held by Sweden – and several EU Member States. The nations reaffirmed their efforts to develop a powerful treaty under international law for enforcing the protection of IP Rights.
According to United States trade representative Ron Kirk, the talks 'focused on enforcement of rights in the digital environment and criminal enforcement'. While negotiations have so far been conducted on a confidential basis, Kirk hinted that more information about the direction of the talks is forthcoming. 'Participants … discussed the importance of transparency,' he added, 'including the availability of opportunities for stakeholders and the public in general to provide meaningful input into the negotiating process.'
ACTA's supporters have garnered attention in the IP community for formulating a global framework that works outside the remit of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Last month, IP Review Online reported that a parallel initiative – the 'plurilateral' patent prosecution highway – could flourish into an alternative IP registration system to WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Both developments indicate that global economies are willing to experiment with new systems in order to achieve more effective results in registration and protection.
ACTA stands to have a significant impact on IP globally by creating a new enforcement strategy to tackle infringement – particularly in the field of fake branded goods. The multilateral push towards a final ACTA text is motivated by three primary goals: to strengthen worldwide cooperation; to devise workable enforcement methods; and to create a sound legal structure.
Among the powers that the participating countries have considered as central to the ACTA cause are the ability to destroy fake branded goods, with the additional option to destroy materials or equipment that have been used to manufacture those goods; sanctioning judicial authorities to seize goods, materials or paperwork as evidence of infringement without necessarily consulting the infringer or the rights holder; and efforts to help customs officers identify and target shipments of infringing goods.
The concept of ACTA was hatched in bilateral talks between the US and Japan in 2006. Preliminary discussions to find additional support took place that year and throughout 2007. In an outline of their objectives, the participating countries said that they planned 'to build on existing international rules in the area of intellectual property, in particular on the TRIPS Agreement, and … address a number of enforcement issues where [we] have identified that an international legal framework does not exist or needs to be strengthened'.