The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) IP Chapter

By Melissa de Zwart

Nine countries are currently negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement: US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam and Peru. Under the terms of this agreement, signatories will be required to amend their domestic intellectual property laws to comply with the terms of the TPPA. The US draft of the intellectual property chapter of the trade agreement was leaked in February 2011 generating significant controversy regarding its draconian terms. The leaked chapter is available here at Michael Geist’s blog.

Some key aspects of the draft are as follows:

Geographical Indications

A party must provide that geographical indications (GIs) are eligible for protection as trademarks. For this purpose geographical indications are defined as ‘indications that identify a good as originating in the territory of a Party, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Any sign or combination of signs (such as words, including geographical and personal names, as well as letters, numerals, figurative elements, and colors, including single colors), in any form whatsoever’.

The TPPA provides for a registration of GIs if recognized by a member party. Of course, in Australia, GI protection currently extends only to wine and spirits, under the Wine Australia Corporation Act 1980 (Cth). This scheme was introduced to give effect to Australia’s obligations under TRIPS and, more specifically, the Australia-European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine 2008 (and it is predecessor signed in 1994). It is precisely this sort of agreement (reached in order to secure access to the European market for Australian winemakers) which would be prohibited by the TPPA.

Article 2 (which deals with trademarks and GIs) provides that no party shall (whether pursuant to an agreement with another government or otherwise):

  • Prohibit third parties from using translated versions of the geographical indications for goods other than wines or spirits;
  • Prohibit third parties from using a term that is ‘evoked by’ the geographical indication;
  • Prohibit third party uses of any component of a multi-component geographical indication protected by virtue of the agreement, even if such components are generic or use would not give rise to confusion (Clause 17).

For the purposes of the Agreement, a term is generic if it is customary in common language as the common name for the goods or services associated with the term or GI (Clause 18).

Clause 19 sets out a range of factors which may be taken into account in determining whether the terms is generic, such as whether:

  • persons other than the person claiming the rights use that term as the name for the product; and
  • the product is imported into the relevant country, in significant quantities, from outside the proposed protected region using the same name.

This is contrary to the current Australian regime, and particularly the Australia-EC Wine Agreement, which prohibits the use of certain traditional expressions and required the phasing out of local uses of specific GIs, despite their long-term use in Australia.

Clause 22 provides for the non-misleading use and/or registration of signs or indications that reference a geographical area that is not the true place of origin of the product of the product or services other than for wines or spirits, provided that:

a)     the sign or indication is used in a manner that does not mislead the public as to the geographical origin of the goods or services;

b)     the use does not constitute an act of unfair competition;

c)      use would not cause a likelihood of confusion with an earlier trade mark or GI; and

d)     the request for registration does not relate to a generic term.
This reflects the two tier system for GI protection provided for in Articles 22 and 23 of TRIPS, which recognize a higher level of protection for wine and spirits, extending to non-misleading and translated uses of GIs.

Copyright

Article 4 extends the rights granted to authors, performers and producers of phonograms to all forms of reproduction of their works/ performances including temporary storage in electronic form.  The temporary reproduction right proved particularly controversial during the negotiations that resulted in the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and ultimately could not be resolved at that meeting. Rather, it was dealt with by way of the Agreed Statement to Article 8. (‘It is understood that the mere provision of physical facilities for enabling or making a communication does not in itself amount to communication within the meaning of this Treaty or the Berne Convention. It is further understood that nothing in Article 8 precludes a Contracting Party from applying Article 11bis(2)’). The inclusion of the temporary reproduction right here in the TPPA without further fanfare or disclosure is particularly tricksy on the part of the US and is likely to cause significant debate!

Other notable expansions of copyright include:

  • Prohibition on parallel importation, even of goods manufactured with authorization of the copyright owner outside of the relevant territory.
  • Copyright terms are extended to life plus 70 years for individuals (already the case in Australia) and between 95 and 120 years for corporate works.

The relevant exceptions and limitations are left blank with only a ‘placeholder’ marking their potential inclusion (an ominous lack of attention to detail, given the foreshadowed expansion of rights) although it is noted with respect to the above, one of the possible exceptions would relate to internet retransmission.

Technological protection measures

Technological protection measures are yet again the focus of strengthening efforts. Parties are required to provide that any act of circumvention or dealing in circumvention devices or services shall be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Criminal penalties apply to anyone other than a non-profit library, archive, educational institution or public noncommercial broadcasting entity, who engages in circumvention ‘for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain’. Circumvention gives rise to liability independent from any infringement of copyright.

Exceptions and limitations to the anti-circumvention provisions must be confined to the purposes defined in paragraphs (d) and (e).

The narrowness of these exceptions will require amendment of Australia’s TPM provisions which currently require that a TPM be an ‘access control technological protection measure’ which effectively excludes protection of TPMs which protect region coding and TPMs embodied in machines or devices, not directed primarily to protecting copyright.

ISP liability

Article 16 provides for ‘Special Measures Relating to Enforcement in the Digital Environment’. Notably, Clause 3(a) requires parties to provide ‘legal incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in deterring the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials.’ Given the current global climate regarding ISP liability and the decision of the Full Federal Court in the iiNet decision, this would impose significant pressure on the Australian government to reform the law. This is subject to compliance with the US DMCA safe-harbor provisions.

Conclusions

As expressed in this leaked US draft, the provisions of the TPPA, particularly those relating to copyright, appear to be more restrictive than ACTA. Some commentators have hypothesized that the ambit claims made in the leaked document are so extreme that the US is playing a negotiating tactic that allows them to significantly back down from this position and still come out ahead in terms of outcomes. Whilst this remains to be seen, it has reminded us that the parameters of intellectual property rights remain contested and vulnerable to being traded away in the international trade environment.

Dr Melissa de Zwart is an Associate Professor in Law at the University of Adelaide.

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One Response to The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) IP Chapter

  1. Mathew says:

    The purpose of copyright protection is meant to be to encourage creative efforts, this is increasingly being lost in the international stage with the US lobbying for greater rights for its businesses…. How long until someone actually looks at the benefits to Australia from extending these rights???

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