Landslide majority of EU parliamentarians scrap controversial ACTA treaty

Published: 4 July 2012

Oxfam strongly welcomes the European Parliament’s vote against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) by a majority of 478 votes out of 682. ACTA would have posed a serious threat to poor people’s access to generic medicines, the international development agency says.

Europe’s rejection means the global treaty is now scrapped entirely, despite having political support from the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Leïla Bodeux, Oxfam’s spokesperson, said:

“Today marks a real turning point, a victory for poor people over the interests of big pharmaceutical companies. ACTA could have made life-saving drugs much costlier for the world’s poorest, resulting in devastating consequences for their health. With Europe’s rejection, we’re now hugely relieved that ACTA is going nowhere.

“ACTA would have limited the legitimate movement of generic medicines by making companies producing affordable drugs subject to criminal prosecutions and having their medicines seized.

“The European Commission, who has been a significant driving force behind ACTA, must now refrain from seeking to introduce any other rules that would endanger the lives of people needing affordable medicines in the developing world.”

Notes to Editors

Oxfam thinks that ACTA’s definition of Intellectual Property Rules (IPR) serves only the interests of big pharmaceutical companies and other companies seeking to limit the legal use of intellectual property around the world. The pharmaceutical industry, armed with ACTA and other IP protections, would have strengthened and expanded their monopolies in developing countries.

The treaty provided for the seizure and even destruction of medicines being shipped to developing countries, regardless of whether they infringed any IPR in the place of production or consumption. Medicines that unintentionally infringed a registered trademark could also have been seized.

ACTA thus introduced the same risk posed by EU Customs Regulation 1383/2003, currently being revised, which gave rise to at least 20 seizures of legitimate generic medicines between 2008 and 2009, with at least one new seizure reported in 2011. These included life-saving medicines to treat HIV and AIDS and cardiovascular diseases, and targeted medicines intended for use in developing countries such as Peru, Nigeria, and Brazil.

Moreover, ACTA included a range of provisions imposing third party liability upon the companies supplying these affordable medicines. This could have prevented these companies from participating in the global production and distribution of generics, negatively affecting the industry and reducing global availability of quality, affordable medicines.

*** Countries negotiating ACTA are: Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.

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