Brussels, June 4th 2010 — The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) may hamper the fight against climate change by inhibiting the diffusion of green technology, according to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII).
Behind closed doors, the European Union, United States, Japan and other trade partners are negotiating an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA will contain new international norms for the enforcement of copyrights, trade mark rights, patents and other exclusive rights.
Following the release of a draft ACTA text, the FFII updated its analysis of the effects ACTA may have on the software field. The software sector is plagued by patent thickets. Non-practicing entities (“trolls”) file frivolous lawsuits and demand high damages. In the U.S., even major software companies, owning huge patent portfolios, support patent reform. Depending on the outcome of the final text, ACTA may impose injunctions for all patent infringements and increase damages. This will render reform impossible. The FFII analysis shows ACTA may help holders of large patent portfolios to eliminate competition from start-ups, smaller sized companies and open source projects.
FFII analyst Ante Wessels: “The ACTA-problems are not limited to software. To win the fight against climate change, fast diffusion of green technology is needed. Policy makers know that, patent trolls know that. We will see the same problems that plague the software field, like trivial patents, amassing of patents, frivolous lawsuits, hampering of follow up innovation and high transaction costs. Especially since many modern products, like hybrid cars, contain software.”
In a podcast, Nikolaus Thumm, Chief Economist of the European Patent Office, said that the key facilitator of technology transfer is licensing. He mentions people giving away essential parts of their technologies.
Ante Wessels: “Making the fight against climate change dependant on charity from patent holders hardly seems advisable. Means to force patent owners to cooperate are needed too. ACTA may impose injunctions for all infringements, there will then be no way to force patent holders to cooperate. Even if this problem is solved, the high damages ACTA proposes will drive up the costs for diffusion of green technology. While the funds are already limited, for instance, the fight against AIDS seems lost, due to lack of money. The same may happen with diffusion of green technology.”
According to the FFII, there is no indication that the 1994 WTO TRIPS agreement provides inadequate protection for patent holders.
The next round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations is scheduled for later this month in Switzerland.
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The FFII is a not-for-profit association, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1,000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.