The European Commission published a document earlier this month to defend the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the face of large public demonstrations against the proposed agreement. In an email interview, Axel Metzger, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of Hanover, discussed ACTA in the context of European Union intellectual property norms.
WPR: What is the background of ACTA, and what gaps in the global intellectual property regime is it meant to address?
Axel Metzger: The goal of ACTA is to achieve a higher level of enforcement of intellectual property rights. The provisions, for the most part, do not define what represents an infringement. Rather the agreement is focused on sanctions, especially criminal sanctions, border measures, injunctions and damages. ACTA is meant to supplement the enforcement rules of the TRIPS agreement of 1994, which is part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) body of international treaties. The ACTA negotiating parties nevertheless preferred to discuss the new agreement outside the framework of the WTO to avoid an open discussion with all WTO member states. Within the WTO, developing countries are in a majority position. Their main interest is access to technology -- for instance, pharmaceuticals -- and cultural content, in contrast to the European and American preference for greater enforcement of existing rules. This discrepancy in political goals has blocked WTO negotiations in the Doha process for years. The strategy behind ACTA is to establish a new “gold standard” for intellectual property (IP) enforcement that may then be implemented in bilateral free trade agreements with individual developing countries.