Opposition to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the developing world is mounting, with India and China formally raising complaints last month at the World Trade Organization.
At the WTO’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights session in June, India and China sharply criticized the draft ACTA text for going far beyond current international standards. Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Egypt, Peru, and South Africa also voiced concerns.
India warned that ACTA could potentially block access to low-cost generic drugs. The agreement is purportedly intended to stem large-scale illegal trade in fake trademarked products and pirated copyrighted goods, and would oblige customs agents to seize goods suspected of being counterfeit or pirated, including pharmaceuticals. But Indian officials warn that ACTA could lead to generic medicines, including those to treat the HIV and AIDS, being labelled as “counterfeit” and confiscated at the borders.
In the past two years, a number of EU countries have seized shipments of generic drugs on their way through European ports. India and Brazil have indicated they intend to launch a WTO dispute on the confiscation of a shipment of losartan, a generic blood pressure treatment, transiting through Amsterdam in December 2008 upon request by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, which holds Dutch patents on the drug.
ACTA would also place new restrictions on the use of copyrighted material, fuelling fears in the developing world that it would undermine access and fair use, particularly for educational and research purposes.
ACTA is being negotiated by Australia, Canada, the European Union and its 27 member states, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.