Infojustice Roundup 

Intellectual Property and the Public Interest

Interagency Committee Hears Testimony for the 2012 Special 301 Report

On February 23, the Special 301 Committee held its third annual opening hearing as part of its review of foreign countries’ intellectual property policies.  Committee Members from the following agencies were represented:  USTR, State, Homeland Security, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Library of Congress, Customs & Border Patrol, and the Patent & Trademark Office.  Not present (for the third year in a row) were any representatives from the Department of Health & Human Services, USAID, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – a point noted by many who testified. Notes on the proceeding and links to the submissions of all those who testified are available here.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Proposes Copyright Suppression of Price Competition

[by John Mitchell] Dissatisfied with the exclusive right to set the price at which copies of their works are first sold, copyright holders have been trying, for over 150 years, to bolster the resale prices at which copies of their works are re-sold, in order to protect them from the normal pressures of free market price competition. Since they no longer own the copies, they have tried extending the reach of their exclusive right to “distribute” copies to encompass copies they no longer own. For just as long, the courts and Congress have rebuffed those efforts. Today, however, the United States Trade Representative is negotiating with foreign countries to obligate Congress and the courts to give them that power, even as their latest in a series of efforts to extend the existing distribution right is pending before the Supreme Court. Click here for more.

Alternative Copyright Reform Bill Introduced in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies

While the Ministry of Culture’s much-talked about, controversial copyright reform bill has yet to reach the Brazilian National Congress, a deputy from the Partido dos Trabalhadores, Nazareno Fonteles, has jumped the gun with his own take on the subject. Bill 3133/2012, introduced February 7th in the Chamber of Deputies, is not exactly a new proposal. It is heavily inspired by the first draft of the Ministry of Culture’s text–a very forward-looking, progressive bill, when compared to both the current legislation and the more recent versions of the Ministry of Culture’s proposal.  Besides promoting a major overhaul on the very foundations of copyright law, adapting it to comply with the Brazilian Constitution, antitrust and consumer protection law, the bill also greatly expands the list of limitations to copyright, and establishes much-needed checks on collective rights management.  Encouragingly, the proposal’s explanatory notes mention that improving access to knowledge is the major reason for an urgent copyright reform. Click here for more.

Protests at Novartis Shareholder Meeting Ask Company to Drop Its Challenge to Section 3(d) of Indian Patent Law

Protests over Novartis’ challenge to India’s Patents Act took place outside the company’s Annual Shareholders Meeting last week. The challenge centers around section 3D, which does not allow the granting of a patent for a “new form of a known substance which does not result in the enhancement of the known efficacy of that substance.” The company wants the Supreme Court to apply a loose definition of “efficacy,” allowing for looser patentability standards. Health advocates warn that this will block generic competition. They argue that India’s role as “pharmacy to the developing world” means that people worldwide depend on generic competition in India. Click here for more.

Research Works Act Shelved by Sponsors

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the sponsors of the Research Works Act – Reps. Issa and Maloney – have pledged not move the legislation forward.  The bill would have prevented government agencies from requiring that peer-reviewed literature funded by their grants be made freely available online. The sponsors’ statement: “As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open-access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future. The American people deserve to have access to research for which they have paid. This conversation needs to continue, and we have come to the conclusion that the Research Works Act has exhausted the useful role it can play in the debate.” Click here for more.

Reactions to De Gucht’s Announcement that EC has Sent ACTA to European Court of Justice

On February 22, EC Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht announced that the Commission has referred ACTA to the European Court of Justice to “assess whether ACTA is incompatible – in any way – with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property.” MEP David Martin said this move showed “there are still many question marks about ACTA and what the implementation of the agreement, as it stands, would mean for citizens and for the freedom of the internet.”  FFII noted that De Gucht did not mention criticisms related to access to medicines or environmental technologies.  La Quadrature du Net noted that the agreement will not address important political (as opposed to legal) questions surrounding ACTA. Click here for more.

PIJIP Research Paper: TRIPS-Plus, FTAs and Wikileaks – Fresh Insights on the Implementation and Enforcement of IP Protection in Developing Countries

Author: Mohammed El Said. Abstract: “Leaked diplomatic cables related to the United States’ foreign policy implementing and enforcing intellectual property in developing countries draw a bleak picture. U.S. interest groups and local agents collaborate to achieve higher levels of intellectual property protection without taking into consideration the public interest and consumer rights of local communities. This … jeopardizes the lives of millions of citizens across the globe. It also undermines the foundations of the global multilateral trading regime and its institutions.” Click here for the paper.

“Africa IP Forum” Postponed

The “Africa IP Forum,” originally cosponsored by WIPO, numerous intellectual property rightholders, and a handfull of governments, has been postponed.  Civil society groups objected to the conference’s corporate sponsorship and IP-maximalist agenda, and pushed for the cancellation of the meeting.  Over 100 groups signed an open letter to WIPO warning that the strong IP policies advanced by the conference sponsors would not be beneficial to African countries.  Rather, they were likely to block access to medicines, access to knowledge, and freedom of expression on the internet. Click here for more.