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TPP Negotiations Divide Intellectual Property Debate

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From SOPA, PIPA, to ACTA intellectual property issues have been a hot topic for discussion this year in American politics. But, the multi-national Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations underway right now could have an even bigger impact on intellectual property rights held here in the United States.

The 14th round of the TPP negotiations is currently being held in Leesburg, Virginia. A multitude of topics are subject to those negotiations, however, the issue of intellectual property rights has been and remains most controversial. Detailed information, except from some material that has been leaked, is sparse.

Different groups are raising different concerns regarding the TPP, but the information made available is  generally limited to commentaries for both advocates of stronger IP laws, and those who opposed increased regulation.

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk received a public letter from a group of academics in May, which criticized the negotiations for taking place behind closed doors. Other critics even went so far to call the negotiations a ‘scheme‘ and a  ‘trap‘ – out of fear that the negotiations could lead to the criminalization and imposition of fines of Internet usage.

Allegedly, TPP negotiators are discussing extending internationally recognized patents to cover things that traditionally were off-limits, such as medicine. The concern is that such patents, if implemented, would prevent accessibility to affordable medicine and would prevent the distribution of generic drugs. This would also lead to more restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe, for example the extension of copyright terms or the placement of greater liability on Internet intermediaries. The primary concerns seem to be a threat to intellectual property as well as the fear of the prevention of accessible medicines.

However, not everybody sees the TPP as a danger. Proponents argue that privacy and security have to be strengthened to facilitate international trade. An agreement in this area would be advantageous to those participating and promoting economic growth by facilitating cross boarder data transfers. This would encourage entrepreneurship and promote international business. In other words, the economic benefit of robust copyright rules would enable local creators to access a global market place on an even playing field.

What is clear is that there are valid arguments coming from both ends of the intellectual property debate. Only time will tell what the actual result of the negotiations will be and if the agreement will balance the fears that lie at both of these ends.

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