The Rise and (Possible) Fall of ACTA. Or Why Legitimate Ends Cannot Justify All Means

Dr. Christophe Geiger, CEIPI

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ("ACTA") is a plurilateral agreement aimed at combating the proliferation of counterfeiting within the global economy. It thus joins a vast panoply of measures already in place or in the course of implementation within the European Union to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights. However, its provisions and its scope differ on a number of points from the acquis communautaire and from the international legal framework. This is particularly the case for the criminal enforcement section of the Agreement. Moreover, the uncertain and vague nature of some provisions has caused significant opposition to ACTA among the general public and within certain institutions of the European Union, in particular the European Parliament. Impediments to its ratification have also started to arise from countries which participated in the negotiations of the Agreement, such as for example Switzerland, which recently postponed its signature, and from certain Members States in the EU. Based on an assessment paper drafted for the Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the European Parliament, the lecture will try to show that, while effective enforcement of intellectual property rights at the global level is without doubt a valid objective, this legitimate end cannot justify all means. In fact, the main weakness of the Agreement lies in the way it was negotiated, i.e. in secret and outside the multilateral intellectual property framework, and without the emerging countries who are its main addressees. Such a method risks, in the long term, to considerably weaken multilateralism in the field of intellectual property lawmaking.