The European Commission failed to sign the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) over the weekend. The international treaty, which seeks to harmonise enforcement of intellectual property infringement across jurisdictions, has drawn the ire of campaigners across the world, who claim it is not being negotiated in an open and transparent manner, with key decisions being made behind closed doors and the undue weight being given to the concerns of rights holders.
The European Commission has been negotiating the treaty on behalf of the European Union and is not expected to be in a position to sign the treaty for a number of months. The Japanese Government, which organised a signing ceremony over the weekend, stated that the European Commission would have until May 2013 to sign up to the treaty.
Opponents of ACTA have argued that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) would be better suited to implement an agreement to harmonise the international approach to infringement. ACTA will operate outside of these organisations.
Questions have also be raised in relation to its legality, as the treaty calls for recourse to criminal penalties for the import or use of counterfeit goods. EU law, however, does not currently allow for the use of criminal penalties in the enforcement of intellectual property rights and additional European legislation would be required before such action could be taken.