A recent leak of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) draft intellectual property chapter shows that negotiators remain divided over key issues. The leak reveals that in May 2014 there was limited agreement on the intellectual property provisions, despite the negotiations being ongoing since at least 2008. The TPP is notorious for the secrecy of its negotiations and the exclusion of the public despite it being widely known that some corporate lobbyists have had access to draft texts and a strong hand in influencing negotiating positions.
Of concern are draft provisions that would substantially increase the cost of medical treatment, both domestically and in other participating countries, which demonstrates the strong lobbyist influence on the negotiations. Other provisions may expand Internet service provider surveillance of subscribers, expand what can be patented, and seriously undermine competition by strengthening monopoly rights.
“It is time for the game of secrecy to end. The negotiations seem to be going around in circles and be contrary to the stated positions of the negotiating nations. They fly in the face of expert opinions, and consultations thus far have been little more than shams,” said Brendan Molloy, Pirate Party President.
“Negotiating in this fundamentally undemocratic way will see the involved nations saddled with obligations designed by lobbyists for the benefit of lobbyists, and by the time we find out exactly what those obligations are it’ll already be signed and imposed upon us,” Mr Molloy continued.
Of enormous concern is the removal of an article that would ensure Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement remained fully effective. Article 31 regards compulsory licences of patents to ensure national emergencies in developing countries can be effectively managed. Limiting the effect of Article 31 is likely to have extremely negative effects on managing local and global epidemics.
The Pirate Party is concerned that Friday’s decision of the Full Federal Court to uphold a patent over the BRCA1 breast cancer gene poses an enormous threat to the treatment of breast cancer and future illnesses. Myriad Genetics’ patent is for the isolated BRCA1 gene, and was upheld on the basis that the isolated gene does not exist in isolated form naturally.
Pirate Party President, Brendan Molloy, commented: “The decision of the Court is disturbing to say the least. This is not an invention or a process — it is naturally occuring genetic material. A private company should not be able to own rights over genetic material found within our bodies.
“This will surely hamper future research into breast cancer, and also other health problems if more patents are granted on isolated genes. This is leaving the door wide open for extortionate licence fees, driving up the costs of further research and treatment.
“Now is the time for legislative intervention to make it clear that patents on isolated genetic material that is removed from its natural state should not be patentable. Monopolies should not be granted where the result of that monopoly is a public health risk.
“Like mathematical formulas, genes should not be patentable. No exceptions.”
The Pirate Party is supportive of any decision to appeal this further to the High Court. The Pirate Party’s patent policy opposes patents on isolated genetic material and proposes extensive patent reform to prevent detrimental effects on public health and innovation.
The Pirate Party denounces any attempts to include certification provisions in the highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The United States, one of twelve negotiating nations including Australia, may be given the power to opt-out of the Agreement if countries do not implement the TPP according to the standards of the United States Trade Representative. This has been used by the United States to pressure other countries into adopting its interpretation of trade agreements.
These provisions give an inordinate amount of leverage to the US Government to pressure treaty partners, such as Australia, to alter and adopt laws that go beyond the negotiated text of the treaty. In practice this could result in a situation where the US Government and its advisors are approving, or even drafting, Australian laws to ensure they comply with the interests and expectations of the United States.
Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party, commented: “This is an egregious overreach. I daresay that any Australian government that signs such an unbalanced agreement, which puts such an unequal share of power in the hands of a foreign entity, is guilty of betraying the interests of the Australian people. A partnership where all parties do not have equal power is not a partnership. By signing such a fundamentally unbalanced agreement, Australia would be granting the US significant control of our sovereignty, making us effectively a vassal of the United States.
MELBOURNE — At 6:30 pm today, Pirates of all persuasions will descend upon Federation Square to engage in a swashbuckling pillow fight. Money raised by the event, organised by Pirate Party Australia, will go toward the charity Childhood Cancer Support. The charity’s website can be found here: http://ccs.org.au
“Despite perceptions of parrots, swords and eye-patches, when Pirate Party Australia talks like a pirate it usually means discussing copyright and patent reform, and other policy areas,” said Pirate Party Deputy President Melanie Thomas. “While it’s not always fun and games, we are more than happy to have a bit of fun for a good cause!”
By hosting a pillow fight on Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pirate Party Australia is hoping to draw attention to the need to better enable research opportunities in the field of health and pharmaceuticals. The Party is agitating for reform of patent laws to assist medical research across a range of illnesses, including cancer, and enabling cheaper access to medication and treatment. It is an unfortunate effect of drug patents that they shut down free market competition which might otherwise drive improved manufacturing and delivery techniques.
Just a quick episode this week as Sam runs through the news on the BRCA1 Patent case. Subscribe to the feed, or view past episodes.
Pirate Party Australia’s Press Release
Techdirt story on Australian patent case
Podcast (webcast): Play in new window | Download (Duration: 11:11 — 12.0MB)