Author: Rashmi Rangnath

Can TPP’s investment chapter harm consumer protection and access to knowledge?

Empowered by investment provisions in free trade agreements, corporations have challenged national laws, policies, and practices that protect the environment and public health. Phillip Morris’ challenges to cigarette plain packaging rules in Uruguay and Australia are the latest examples of such corporate actions. The Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) also contains an investment chapter similar to the investment chapter in many FTAs. Would that chapter give corporations the same powers as other FTAs? Could it be used to challenge national measures designed to increase access to knowledge? Could it be used to challenge limits to copyright meant to protect consumers? Consumer representatives and public interest advocates believe that the answer is yes and that it is only a matter of time before these challenges will be brought. The consequences of such challenges are likely to be adverse, imposing a strain on limited national budgets and discouraging countries from enacting public interest measures. I recently wrote a paper exploring these questions. A copy of the paper, commissioned by Consumer’s International, is available here. Analyses and conclusions in the paper are based on a leaked draft of TPP’s investment chapter and a leaked U.S. proposal for TPP’s intellectual property chapter. Below is a brief summary. How is copyright related to the investment chapter? TPP’s investment chapter defines “investor” and “investment” broadly, conferring the status of investor even on an entity that does...

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Copyright and Secrecy Don’t Make for Good Trade Agreements

[Public Knowledge (Link)(CC-BY-SA]  Today we filed comments about the proposed United States-European Union Free Trade Agreement – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We told the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that copyright is an uncomfortable fit for a trade agreement and should be kept out of the TTIP. If the USTR still wants to include copyright within the TTIP, it should make sure that a copyright chapter in the TTIP will not impede Congress’s ability to change U.S. copyright laws. We also asked the USTR to break from the past and not negotiate the TTIP in secret. Copyright is about more than economics and isn’t a good fit for trade The purpose of trade agreements is to open markets and ensure that American producers have the best opportunity to sell their products in foreign markets. Its primary focus is thus increasing economic benefit. Its primary constituencies are companies that produce goods and services. The public is indirectly benefited when companies can make more domestically and sell more to foreign markets. Some aspects of copyright fit well within this trade paradigm and others don’t. The aspects that fit well relate to exclusive rights of U.S. copyright owners. Protecting these rights and improving their ability to penetrate foreign markets increases revenues for U.S. companies and that is good for the U.S. economy. The aspect that does...

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Intellectual Property in the TPP: How About a Little Balance?

This blog post was co-written by Peter Maybarduk, Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program Director. It was originally published on the Public Knowledge site. This past Friday (August 17), Douglas E. Schoen published an op-ed in Politico lobbying for “strong” intellectual property (IP) protection in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The op-ed argued that such an approach would be a “straightforward” route to “job-creating innovation.” The op-ed ignored serious costs that over aggressive IP protection can pose to the economy, including the stifling of innovation in consumer electronics products and high monopolist prices for consumer goods including critical medicines. Like others before and since, the study Schoen cites does not support inferences linking particular IP demands in the TPP to innovation or jobs. Many recent cases have shown that intellectual property practices and rules can stifle innovation and limit needed competition: abusive copyright claims intended to prevent introduction of new and innovative products and services; overbroad patents that hold back research and invention; trademark claims designed to stifle competition rather than prevent consumer confusion about the origin of goods and services. While protecting trademarks, copyrights, and patents can be useful, so is placing smart limits on exclusivity. The importance of limits to IP Inadequate balance in copyright law would prevent the creation and distribution of new creative works, like news reports and documentary films that use existing films,...

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Shhhh. The TPP Is Secret.

[Originally posted on publicknowledge.org] In my previous post on the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), I explained how provisions of TPP might harm you. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly what might be bad within secret agreements like the TPP–all we have to go off of is leaked text that is many months old. But this raises another point: the secrecy itself is bad, not just because it makes it hard to comment on what may or may not be in the text, but because it undermines the democratic process. Secrecy might make sense for nuclear disarmament talks but it’s hard to see why agreements like the TPP–which amount to international treaties that set levels of intellectual property protection around the world–deserve such hush-hush treatment. In this post, I will explain the secretive process that lets agreements like TPP, and its predecessor, the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), become instruments that undermine your free speech and due process rights in the name of preventing copyright infringement. The secretive process Like ACTA, the TPP is being negotiated in secret. Members of the public are given almost no information about the provisions of the agreement. Not only do we not have access to actual draft text, we do not even have a real description of the substance of the provisions. Sometimes even information about meeting times and venues are not revealed. What...

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