Brussels, 20 October 2010
All you want to know about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
On 2 October 2010, negotiators from the EU and 10 other countries1 concluded the last round of negotiations of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The participants resolved nearly all outstanding issues and produced a consolidated and largely finalized text of the proposed agreement. This text is now being submitted ad referendum to the respective capitals. It has been made public on 6 October and is available on the Commission website:
Purpose and background of the agreement
The ACTA negotiations were launched in June 2008, based on a concept introduced by Japan in the preparation of the 2006 G8 Summit and later endorsed by the US. There were 11 rounds of negotiations.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are a key asset of the EU, ensuring its leading role in the "knowledge economy". The EU can only remain competitive, if it can rely on innovation, creativity, quality, and brand exclusivity. These are some of our main comparative advantages on the world market, and they are all protected by intellectual property rights. Only, the means of adequately enforcing those rights in our main export markets to date are limited.
This is where ACTA can help: The agreement aims to establish a comprehensive, first-time, international framework – a catalogue of "best practices" - that will assist its members to effectively combat the infringement of IPRs. IPR infringements undermine legitimate trade, the EU's competitiveness and jobs. ACTA will introduce a new international standard, building on the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which was adopted in 1994.
It will include state-of-the-art provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including:
Impact on EU law
ACTA will not change the body of EU law as it is already considerably more advanced than the current international standards. European IPR enforcement legislation includes the:
ACTA will only address the way companies and individuals can enforce their rights in court, at the borders or via the internet. It will not create new IP rights, nor will it define their acquisition, duration, scope of protection, registration, etc. ACTA countries will enforce the rights as they are defined domestically.
Positive aspects of ACTA
ACTA is essential for all those EU exporters who hold IP rights and operate globally. Currently, many of them suffer systematic and widespread infringements of their copyrights, trademarks, patents, designs and geographical indications.
ACTA will improve the cooperation between authorities and thus the level and effectiveness in dealing with such infringements. Take for instance an author who is confronted with a pirated copy of his book outside the EU, or a fashion company that finds counterfeits of the clothes it sells: ACTA will harmonise the rules that lay out how they can react in such a case. Everybody who holds an IP right8, from the Chianti producer to the owner of entertainment software, will benefit from improved access to justice, customs, and police to enforce their rights versus counterfeiters or infringers. Right-holders will be able to count on efficient and broadly common rules regarding the way their complaint is dealt with. This does not only refer to the action they can expect from authorities but it also includes a series of practical questions: What urgent protection may a rights-holder obtain, what kind of evidence will be collected and preserved, what will happen to the fake goods once seized?
When it comes to the internet, ACTA even breaks new ground. The World Wide Web is the most global and open market for music, films, books and software, but also for millions of counterfeit goods. So far there is virtually no international standard defined to address the infringements for such goods, because the TRIPS agreement was concluded at a time (1994) when the internet was still in its infancy. ACTA, for the first time, creates a minimal level of harmonisation and transparency for the rules applicable to such infringements.
To sum up: ACTA provides a balanced Agreement, which replies to concerns expressed by Members of the European Parliament, Non Governmental Organisations and other stake-holders regarding issues such as:
The European Commission is in close contacts with the ACTA Parties to clear the last reservations. It has presented the state-of-play to Member States (through the Trade Policy Committee) and to the European Parliament (INTA Committee), to answer their questions and collect initial reactions.
Remaining steps are: adoption by the Commission College, then approval and signature of ACTA by Council. Finally, the European Parliament will be asked to give its consent to the text.
For further information
Consolidated draft text of ACTA agreement:
More information and factsheets on ACTA:
Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the
Directive 2004/48 of 29 April 2004.
Regulation 1383/2003 of 22 July 2003.
Directive 2001/29 of 22 May 2001.
Directive 2000/31/EC of 8 June 2000.
Directive 95/46 and Directive 2002/58.
Regulation 1211/2009, Directive 2009/136/EC and Directive 2009/140/EC, all of 25 November 2009.
Most IPRs are territorial, meaning they need to be registered in countries to be applicable.