The proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has been causing a ruckus for nearly two years as consumer activists object to provisions that may allow European nations to seize low-cost generics under the guise of counterfeit products. The talks are designed to uphold intellectual property standards, according to thisstatement from US Trade Rep: "ACTA...will include state-of-the-art provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including provisions on civil, criminal, and border enforcement measures, robust cooperation mechanisms among ACTA Parties to assist in their enforcement efforts, and establishment of best practices for effective (intellectual property rights) enforcement."
But critics say the initiative goes too far and, with a final deal expected in a few weeks, the heat is rising. Last week, Medicines Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, has argued ACTA would limit access to needed meds in poor countries and has now launched a campaign denouncing the negotiations as secretive and counterproductive.
"While there have been attempts to justify ACTA as a way to deal with the hazard of fake medicines, ACTA has nothing to do with improving the quality of medicines used in developing countries at all. Its purpose is to protect private commercial interests, such as those of pharmaceutical companies. In fact, because ACTA jeopardizes access to low-cost, quality generic medicines, it may lead to a shortage of affordable medicines, which itself usually leads to increased illegal trade in spurious and fake medicines," the organization writes on its web site.
Jumping into the fray is US Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, who late last week wrote a letter to the Congressional Research Service to ask for a legal review. He notes that ACTA would be considered an executive agreement, which means ratification by Congress would not be needed. And in a nod to concerns by consumer activists, including Doctors Without Borders, he wants to know more about the impact ACTA can have on patent reforms and access to copyrights on orphan "works." The implication is that the US Trade Rep may encounter some push back.