EU Calls on US to Fulfill TRIPS Obligations re Copyright

Ambassador John Bruton, Head of the European Commission Delegation to the United States, issued the following statement on March 19, 2008:

“At a time when there is increasingly impressive cooperation between the EU and the U.S. in combating intellectual property infringements, it is high time for America to resolve our outstanding IPR disagreements.”

“As the stakes continue to grow in the intellectual property arena, the U.S. should not weaken its voice in the debate by ignoring treaty obligations and WTO decisions. American delay on fixing the ‘Irish Music’ and ‘Havana Club’ cases diminish the arguments that both the U.S. and EU countries have against China and other countries that continue to tolerate widespread intellectual property rights infringement.”

“Happily, our relatively few – but important – cases are to be seen in the larger transatlantic context where cooperation on intellectual property enforcement is working successfully to combat piracy and counterfeiting. Today’s counterfeit goods aren’t just handbags and clothing, after all. They are fake medicines, toys, and electrical appliances, even knock-off airplane parts! Think about that as you board your next flight.”

“Only recently, in November/December 2007, EU and U.S. customs authorities worked together to seize over 360,000 counterfeit integrated computer circuits – critical to the infrastructure of modern business, healthcare, education, and communication networks – with over 40 different trademarks. Such unreliable goods damage our networks and harm our economies by undermining the ability of European and American companies to compete globally. This “Operation Infrastructure” was the first joint intellectual property rights enforcement operation undertaken by Customs and Border Protection and the European Union.”

“We need to resolve the Irish Music and Havana Club cases and sweep away these long-standing trade irritants in an area that grows more important with each passing day.”

the reference to “Irish Music” is  that under Section 110(5)(B) of the US Copyright Act, American bars, restaurants, shops and the like are allowed to retransmit broadcast music without paying royalties to the copyright holders. Back in 2000, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found this incompatible with the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and the EU has urged for the US Law to be ammended accordingly.

The “Havana Club” issue, is an interesting one:  Section 211 U.S. of the October 1998 Omnibus Appropriations Act diminished the rights of owners of U.S. trademarks and trade-names which previously belonged to a Cuban national or company expropriated in the course of the Cuban revolution, taking away the right to register or renew such trademarks or to enforce them in US courts. “Havana Club” is a rum, distributed jointly by the the Cuban company Cubaexport and by the European company Pernod.

Back in 2002, the WTO Appellate Body found that Section 211 violates the TRIPs Agreement. Several bills to repeal Section 211 are currently pending in Congress. The EC believes that repeal is essential since Intellectual Property Rights are not intended to advance political goals.

This statement is important in that in that it points out US shortcomings and double standards as the States criticizes other regimes such as Canada, Israel and China, for not doing enough to protect the Intellectual Property of US corporations and individuals.

Categories: Copyright, Intellectual Property, News, Opinion, trademarks, US, World Trade Organization

2 replies

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