[Australian Digital Alliance, Link (CC-BY)] It has been a big week for Australian Copyright. On Thursday the Attorney-General, the Hon George Brandis QC, tabled the long-anticipated final report from the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) Copyright and the Digital Economy inquiry. This inquiry was charged with determining if copyright exceptions and limitations were working in the digital age. The conclusion was that reform was needed. The ALRC recommended:
[Working paper] The secretive 2011 Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – known in short by the catchy acronym ACTA – is a controversial trade pact designed to provide for stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights. The preamble to the treaty reads like pulp fiction – it raises moral panics about piracy, counterfeiting, organised crime, and border security. The agreement contains provisions on civil remedies and criminal offences; copyright law and trademark law; the regulation of the digital environment; and border measures. Memorably, Susan Sell called the international treaty a TRIPS Double-Plus Agreement, because its obligations far exceed those of the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Agreement 1994, and TRIPS-Plus Agreements, such as the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement 2004. ACTA lacks the language of other international intellectual property agreements, which emphasise the need to balance the protection of intellectual property owners with the wider public interest in access to medicines, human development, and transfer of knowledge and technology.
The Australian government has released the draft report of its Pharmaceutical Patents Review, which had been tasked to “review the effectiveness of the Australian patent system in providing timely access to affordable pharmaceutical and medical treatments and supporting innovation.” The report considered domestic law on patents, data exclusivity, and pharmaceuticals, as well as Australia’s current trade obligations and its position in ongoing trade negotiations.
[Reposted from the AFINET website] The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET), the Public Health Association and three other health organisations have made a submission to the review of pharmaceutical patents because the issue of patents and medicine is a key issue in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.
The US is demanding much stronger patent laws which would allow pharmaceutical companies to charge high prices for medicines for longer periods. Our submission argues that there is no evidence for stronger patent laws, and that the Australian government should reject such requests in the TPPA.
Tobacco giant, Philip-Morris, brought actions this year under investor-State arbitration mechanisms in investment treaties to challenge laws limiting (in Uruguay) or prohibiting (in Australia) the display of its trademarks in tobacco packaging. This has caused the Australian government to take a strong stance against any investor-State arbitration provisions in free trade agreements (FTAs), including exemptions from the proposed investor-state settlement provisions of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), currently being negotiated. However, a closer look reveals a broad collection of older treaties that do not contain exceptions in modern treaties that could have avoided this situation. As a multinational-enterprise, Philip-Morris has attempted to evade these exceptions by going through subsidiaries to bring claims under more favorable treaties. This reveals that Australia’s new stance against investor-State arbitration may do nothing to prevent similar claims being brought in the future.
The Australian Law Reform Commission is seeking submissions on its paper Copyright and Digital Economy Issues Paper. The paper and questions it raises are described below. The deadline for submissions is November 16, 2012.
August 2012: With a view towards providing structure to the debate regarding the adequacy of present exceptions and licensing in the digital environment, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) published an issue paper on August 20, 2012 on its’ inquiry, entitled Copyright and the Digital Economy.
A joint statement by the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Australian Greens, and the Green Party of Canada criticizes the leaked investment and intellectual property chapters of the TPP. It also critizes the lack of transparency in the negotiations and calls on governments to open up the negotiations. Excerpts from the statement on intelletcual property include:
A statement by Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam was highly critical of the country’s trade negotiators: “information on the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement revealed over the weekend show the US and Australia want to defeat a proposed clause protecting domestic intellectual property laws.
On Tuesday, the Ukraine initiated a formal trade dispute with Australia through the WTO’s Dispute Settlement System. The Ukraine alleges that Australia’s Plain Packaging Act, which provides that “no trade mark may appear anywhere on a tobacco product” violates TRIPS (and other trade agreement) rules on trademarks.