EU parliament rejects ACTA

Brussels/Geneva, 4 July 2012  Members of the European Parliament today voted to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) put before them by the European Commission. International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomed the refusal of an agreement that could have limited access to quality generic medicines.

“We are relieved that the EU Parliament has struck down ACTA,” said Aziz ur Rehman, Intellectual Property Advisor for the MSF Access Campaign. “The way it was written, ACTA would have given an unfair advantage to patented medicines, and restricted access to affordable generic medicines to the detriment of patients and treatment providers alike.”

ACTA was purported to protect against counterfeiting across a number of industries, including for medicines, where it was held up as a way of blocking potentially harmful ‘counterfeit’ medicines. MSF strongly supports efforts to ensure that generics meet accepted international standards, however, ACTA’s overbroad definition of ‘counterfeiting’ and its excessive enforcement provisions left too much room for error. Legitimately produced generic medicines could have been seized and detained, hindering access for people who rely on these medicines to survive.

The stringent provisions in ACTA would also have targeted third parties – including treatment providers like MSF – by exposing them to the risk of punitive action in trademark and patent infringement allegations.

Following the rejection of ACTA, the European Commission should review similarly harmful intellectual property provisions being pursued in other agreements, including in free trade negotiations. One such current negotiation is with India, one of the world’s biggest exporters of generic medicines, often referred to as ‘the pharmacy of the developing world’.

“The EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht should take heed - the vote on ACTA has shown that these harmful policies are unacceptable to European parliamentarians and some EU member states. The Commission should rethink its approach on intellectual property enforcement measures in free trade and other agreements.” Mr ur Rehman said.