The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was signed by just eight countries over the weekend. The European Commission, which has been negotiating the treaty on behalf of the EU, declined to sign the agreement, despite attending a ceremony in Japan in which eight nations put pen to paper.
The eight countries which have now signed up to ACTA are Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America. Representatives from several countries, including European nations, attended the ceremony, despite not signing the treaty.
Lawdit reported last week that the European Commission had failed to sign on behalf of the EU and issued a statement that it would not be in a position to enter into the agreement for a number of months. A signatory must be nominated to formally enter into the agreement and bind the EU member states, which in turn will require the text to be made available in all of the languages of the EU. The issue will also have to be voted on in the European Parliament.
Some critics have questioned whether ACTA is compatible with EU law, which does not currently allow for the import or use of counterfeit goods to attract penalties under criminal law. Most criticism, however, centres on negotiations having taken place behind closed doors and the fact that the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are not involved in ACTA negotiations, despite arguably providing a better vehicle for enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Despite failing to sign up to the agreement over the weekend, EU representatives remain supportive of it and have reiterated their desire to enter into the agreement as soon as internal formalities have been concluded.