Witnesses at U.S. Trade Hearing Offer Opinions (and Warnings) on Intellectual Property in Upcoming Negotiations with the EU

[Mike Palmedo]On May 29 the Obama Administration’s inter-agency Trade Policy Staff Committee held the first day of its two-day hearing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  Many of the witnesses who testified in the afternoon offered comments related to intellectual property and/or privacy on the internet – both subjects that are expected to be among the most highly controversial in the upcoming trade negotiations. Below is an account of the testimony related specifically to intellectual property, along with links to the full text of written materials they submitted to USTR.  Click here for more.

Controversy Over Patent Rights and the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Virus

[Sangeeta-Shashikant] An investigation conducted by Edward Hammond, consultant researcher of Third World Network, has revealed that a leading medical centre in The Netherlands is using a material transfer agreement (MTA) that claims proprietary rights over the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, contrary to their public denial of placing restrictions on the virus. A copy of the MTA was obtained by Third World Network some weeks ago under the public records law of the North Carolina, the United States, as part of our ongoing research into potential biopiracy of the MERS virus, triggered by a media report of criticism by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Health of Erasmus on this matter. Click here for more.

Technical Note: The LDC TRIPS Transition Extension and the Question of Rollback

[ICTSD] …On November 5, 2012, Haiti on behalf of WTO LDC Members requested a further extension of the(TRIPS) transition “for as long as the WTO Member remains a least developed country.” The extension request is stated unconditionally in the sense that it does not incorporate a no-rollback commitment similar to that embodied in the 2005 extension. At the request of Nepal on behalf of LDC Members, this proposal was discussed at the TRIPS Council meeting of March 5-6, 2013. While most countries agree in principle with an extension, there are disagreements about the modalities of such a measure including its time frame and scope. Click here for more.

Joint Statement by National Federation of the Blind President Marc Maurer and MPAA Chairman Senator Chris Dodd on Importance of Completing WIPO Visually Impaired Treaty

[Joint press release]  NFB and MPAA … fully support a Treaty that facilitates access to published works in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations for the blind and print disabled to address the book famine wherein the blind and print disabled have access to less than five percent of published works worldwide. The Treaty must achieve two overarching goals: creating exceptions and limitations in copyright law which allow published works to be converted into formats accessible to the blind and print disabled, and permitting accessible copies of published works to be shared across international borders. Click here for the full statement.

Rep. McDermott v. State Department – Conflicting Views on the Trans Pacific Parternship and Access to Medicines

[Mike Palmedo] Last week Jim McDermott wrote an op-ed in Roll Call on the TPP in which he warned that the U.S. proposal for intellectual property in the TPP could “cost millions of lives in developing countries.” McDermott wrote that the proposal extends patent monopolies on pharmaceuticals further than TRIPS:  “It would extend patents beyond the current 20-year norm and block national regulators from using existing clinical trial data to approve the production of generic or “bio-similar” drugs. Alarmingly, the proposal also outlaws ‘pre-grant opposition’ that allows doctors and patients to provide information to their governments about patents they believe do not meet national rules, an important democratic safeguard. The proposal also requires the patenting of new versions of old medicines, even when the new versions offer no additional therapeutic benefits. It even requires patenting of surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic methods, which not only is unethical but also could increase medical liability and the cost of practice.” Click here for more.

Consumer rights groups: Trans-Pacific Partnership to hurt consumers

[Santiago Times] Consumer interest groups from across Latin America met in Santiago to express concerns about a free trade agreement that will unite 12 major economies, saying the deal is being signed in secret… the consumer rights groups object to provisions that would restrict domestic regulations of genetically modified foods, pesticides and additives, as well as raise intellectual property protections above existing World Trade Organization rules. “Many countries will be forced to extend the duration of protection copyright for 20 years or more, which will result in early works of the past century to be closed to the public domain for decades,” the groups’ statement said. Click here for full story on santiagotimes.cl

The full statement and Consumers International press release is here

Second Edition of Crowdfunded Contest Future of Copyright 2.0

[Modern Poland Foundation] It’s hard to find a person who is pleased with the current shape of the copyright system. In most countries. People who  attempt to earn a living from this system also try to have digital monitoring systems work for them. Meanwhile, users are have less and less rights… The public domain is shrinking. There are some efforts to expropriate some of its areas. Therefore, user’s rights are tightened. There are new proposals on the table that focus on finding a way to narrow fair use and to cut proposed exceptions for unprivileged people (impaired or just living in Global South). Therefore, once again we ask the following question: what should a good copyright system look like? Is it possible to live without sharing? Will artists disappear if we make copyright less strict? Can we make culture without artists? Click here for more.