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ACCC says Trans-Pacific Partnership's IP bits will hurt competition and consumers

Effects could last decades, competition watchdog warns

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned the government its intellectual property (IP) obligations under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) could crimp competition for “decades”.

The ACCC, long an advocate for more competitive treatment of IP, has made the warning in its submission (PDF here) to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements in Australia.

Although the TPP has been signed off by the 12 member nations, it's now down to individual countries to enact legislation that enacts the treaty.

The competition regulator warns that the IP-related obligations under the 12-nation TPP could have “significant consequences for the granting and use of IP (and consequently for competition) for decades”.

It says the government needs to conduct a “comprehensive and robust” analysis of the impacts of the treaty on IP, because the TPP's complex IP chapter seems to tilt the balance too far in favour of rights-holders “to the detriment of competition and consumers”.

The ACCC continues that “any evaluation of the IP provisions in the TPP should consider, among other things, whether these provisions:

  • Facilitate competitive IP markets;
  • Have the effect of extending patent protections and/or expand what can be patented;
  • Promote the further emergence of disruptive technologies and dynamic innovation.

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions should also be examined, the ACCC says, to make sure they don't get in the way of domestic reforms.

The Trans Pacific Partnership took years to negotiate, and a definitive text only reached the public this month after it was signed.

The 2,000-page treaty is between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. ®

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