Fighting the Fakes: the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

Author:Ms Claire Tompkins
Profession:James & Wells Intellectual Property

Despite the best efforts of brand owners, customs authorities and enforcement agencies, the numbers relating to global counterfeiting remain mind boggling. Data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development indicates that international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods grew to more than $250 billion in 2008 (almost 2% of world trade) up from $200 billion in 2007.

If you are the owner of intellectual property then it is very likely you have already had to deal with this issue or will have to do so in the near future. As a rights holder you may suffer significant financial loss as a result of rip-off versions of your product entering the market. As a consumer you are likely to have been mislead at some point or another as to the quality and legitimacy of a product you have purchased.

New Zealand is not immune to the problem. In the year to June 2009 the New Zealand Customs Service detained over 270,000 counterfeit items. Commonly targeted goods include well known clothing brands, footwear and caps; and accessories like sunglasses, watches, perfume and jewellery. More recently, the introduction of file sharing software has facilitated the copying and distribution of pirated music, movies, music and software on a large scale. Other types of goods are also being copied which are a health and safety risk to consumers including auto parts, cigarettes, medicines, food, drink and toys.

New treaty proposed

In response to increasing concerns worldwide, a group of countries, including New Zealand, have been negotiating an international treaty aimed to combat the trade and counterfeit and pirated goods. The treaty is known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). It focuses on establishing better mechanisms to enforce the rules against counterfeiting and piracy.

ACTA negotiations began in June 2008 and the aim is to conclude by the end of 2010. The participants are Australia, Canada, The European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. New Zealand's negotiating team is made up of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Economic Development and the New Zealand Customs Service.

The most recent negotiations on the proposed ACTA were held in Wellington from 12-16 April 2010. As a result of the discussions held during this round, it was agreed that the consolidated draft ACTA text would be released to the public. This has subsequently...

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