Top Secret Trade Deal WikiLeaked: It Is What We Expected

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WikiLeaks once again provided a valuable public service, releasing a working draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) chapter on intellectual property. The chapter has many of the provisions that critics had feared.

Specifically, there are several provisions that will increase protectionism in the prescription drug market, pushing up prices in the countries that sign the agreement. There are also provisions that would strengthen copyright protection, increasing the responsibility of third parties to assist copyright holders in enforcing their copyrights.

The greater protection for prescription drugs takes a variety of forms. For example, there is wording that would require countries to allow patents for new combinations of existing drugs. This has been a hotly contested issue internationally.

India’s Supreme Court recently upheld a decision to withhold a patent for the cancer drug Glivec. This drug, which sells for as much as $100,000 for a year’s dosage in the United States, is a combination of previously approved drugs. On this basis India refused to award a patent. As a result, Indian patients can get a generic version that costs around $2,000 a year.

The TPP also provides for stronger and longer protection for test data used to establish a drug’s safety and effectiveness. If this gets into law, patients in many countries will likely have to wait longer before having access to generic versions of drugs.

The US proposed language for the TPP that would require countries to issue patents for medical procedures. This means that a surgeon who has developed a creative way to carry through a particular operation – or was at least able to get a patent issued — would be able to sue other doctors for doing similar operations.

There are also numerous provisions strengthening rules on trademarks and copyrights. The most important provisions with respect to the latter are probably the sections that could lead intermediaries to be held liable for unintentional copyright infringement. For example, a website host could possibly be held liable for infringement if a person had posted video or written material that was subject to copyright protection.

The direction of this chapter is to take commerce 180 degrees in the opposite direction of free trade. It is all about increasing protectionism – and in almost every single dispute the US takes the strongest protectionist position possible. And, as the economics textbooks tell us, protectionism leads to higher prices, economic distortions and waste and corruption.

While the whole thrust of the chapter is to increase protections, the statement of objectives does include the following somewhat inspiring statement (opposed by the United States):

The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.

[And to] support each Party’s right to protect public health, including by facilitating timely access to affordable medicines.

This is nice wording. Together with a couple of dollars it should buy you a cup of coffee.

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/hugh.sansom Hugh Sansom

    An obvious effect of allowing patents for medical procedures will be to reduce discussion of the procedures. They’ll be treated as trade secrets. So not only will medical professionals be barred from using the procedures, people will be less able to develop alternatives or improve upon existing procedures — exactly the opposite of what ‘free market’ hagiographers pretend.

  • Anonymous

    To me, the most worrisome aspect of this “partnership,” regardless of the contents, is the secrecy with which it is being conducted. If this treaty doesn’t contain rules that will negatively impact the average citizen, why all the secrecy and subterfuge? Laws that are good for people don’t need to be enacted behind closed doors, and don’t require Wikileaks to bring them to light.

  • Dana Whaley

    My great aunt was the first female reconstructive surgeon in the US. She invented several procedures which have been in common usage since she came up with them. I want to make it clear that she did not do cosmetic surgery–she volunteered to perform reconstructive surgery on veterans returning from the Korean War, she worked a lot with children having defects like cleft palate, etc–and performed additional follow up procedures as the kids aged so that they would look “normal” as they grew up. She would never have dreamed of patenting her new procedures. And, she made enough money to live in an exclusive community (Montecito, CA)–without suing other surgeons for performing the procedures she invented. TPP is totally unacceptable. Urge Congress to deny the fast tracking authority for this.

  • Terri EC Mom5

    Stop this trade deal that does nothing for the public. Extra protections for drug companies is hardly in the public’s best interests.

  • Bob Fishell

    So the lobbyists aren’t just writing our legislation; they’re writing our treaties as well. Why not just abolish elected government and cut out the middleman.

  • Anonymous

    i think they have already

  • Anne Dugan

    If the TTP and TTIP play out, we will have a version of the world government that George Orwell described in his book, 1984. Both these agreements give what seems to be inordinate power to multinational corporations. Who will be running the world except one or another of these entities? But, whoops, maybe they already are. Nowhere to hide.

  • mike

    Franklin was one of the most practical inventors in history. He built many devices that were designed to help improve or solve everyday problems. Some of his inventions, like bifocal glasses, are well-known, while others are more obscure. Of the numerous inventions Franklin created, he did not patent a single one. Franklin believed that “As we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own…freely and gladly.”

  • Christopher McDermott

    Interesting that Congress approved fast-track legislation on this trade deal, which means our elected representatives turned the whole thing over to Big Pharma (in the front seat holding the wheel) with other large multi-national corporations assisting in the steering and navigation. Yes, big government is a failure in the United States because it is not in the game. Corporate welfare guiding the tax code and now corporate trade policy. I like the suggestion of one of your readers to just sell the government to the highest (lowest?) bidder and remove the middle man, and the bother and expense of elections.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Oblama ( and, yes that’s my trademark spelling of the presidents name), May I suggest a new target for your hell fire Drones?

  • Ernest Spoon

    “The U.S. government is the JUNIOR partner–not the senior–partner of the corporate elite in the corporatocracy. The corporate elite relishes the role of the U.S. government being seen as the tyrant. Every tyrant wants to demonize some other entity–be it an institution or a people–so as to deflect rebellion against itself. In reality, one major role of the U.S. government in the corporatocracy is to serve as a scapegoat to deflect rebellion against the corporate elite.”–Bruce E. Levine

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    Protection of intellectual property doesn’t equate to Corporations own and control all of us. And I don’t think it promotes a violent, globally popular sport similar to roller derby.

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    That’s debatable. Intellectual property rights serve the publics interest as well as those who put in the capital, effort, and creativity to come up with new cures. Its easy to complain about how much an EXISTING drug costs, once someone has brought it into existence. But no one complains about the lives that would be lost if it didn’t exist.

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    Franklin was a delegate to the constitutional convention.

    Article I, Section 8, Clause 8:

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

  • Nick

    The operative phrase being “limited Times”; I wouldn’t consider a human lifespan to be a limited time.

  • Nick

    Fast Track has NOT been approved for this agreement.

  • Anonymous

    Protection of I.P. is absolutely key to corporate control, ReACTIONary. What do you think I.P. is, exactly? Did you read the part about the TPP provision protecting a doctor who invents a new surgery who can then sue other doctors for using the same procedure? Yeccccch, I say!

  • Anonymous

    Funny how even THIS story did not mention the TTIP (thank you for exposing this doozie also).

  • Anonymous

    As I posted before, you don’t seem to get the importance of I.P. protections. These become even more problematic as we move into the post-manufacturing world where ideas and concepts are bought and sold to as a replacement for physical goods so as to give capitalism a continuing purpose. Otherwise, capitalism wouldn’t have much justification for its continued existence.

  • Anonymous

    Precisely. This perverts modern medicine, because thanks to incentives like the ones guaranteed by the TPP and its tragic sisters (WTO, NAFTA, GATT, etc), it is transformed into an “industry” (!) destroying its original innocent purpose of human healing.

  • Bob Fishell

    Bingo.

  • Anonymous

    And corporate-funded congresscritters will listen to me… why exactly?

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    You wouldn’t consider a limited time to be a limited time? Hummm.

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    Capitalism does have a continuing purpose – It delivers the goods. IP is certainly important to capitalism – property in general is important to capitalism. Because it is important to people.

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    Negotiations are never conducted in public. After all, anything that everyone knows is also known by those you are negotiating with, which often puts you at a disadvantage. Especially in a multiparty negotiation. After the negotiators put together a deal it is made public and submitted to Congress for an up or down vote.

    Not only is this a reasonable way to proceed, with our dysfunctional Congress it is just about the only way to proceed. Can you imagine all 535 members of Congress trying to negotiate a trade deal with several other countries? And do so in public? Nothing would ever get done.

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    As pointed out by Robert Cook-Deegan Robert Cook-Deegan at Duke University notes that “When Jonas Salk asked rhetorically “Would you patent the sun?” during his famous television interview with Edward R. Murrow, he did not mention that the lawyers from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis had looked into patenting the Salk Vaccine and concluded that it could not be patented because of prior art – that it would not be considered a patentable invention by standards of the day. Salk implied that the decision was a moral one, but Jane Smith, in her history of the Salk Vaccine, “Patenting the Sun”, notes that whether or not Salk himself believed what he said to Murrow, the idea of patenting the vaccine had been directly analyzed and the decision was made not to apply for a patent mainly because it would not result in one. We will never know whether the National Foundation on Infantile Paralysis or the University of Pittsburgh would have patented the vaccine if they could, but the simple moral interpretation often applied to this case is simply wrong.”

  • http://www.au.org ReACTIONary

    Do you really believe there would be anywhere near the number of people working on vaccines then or now without patent protection? You’re living in dream land.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it is important. Very important. To the people who own property. For everyone else, it becomes slavery to those who own.

  • Anonymous

    Ooh ooh. Imagine that — me: A brush with greatness…

    Your great aunt was the last of a dying breed I am afraid.

  • Nick

    Depends on the lifetime, wouldn’t it? If it’s mine, no, I don’t consider it a limited time, since I didn’t know the beginning and won’t know the end. If you were to die before I do, then yes, I would consider your lifetime to be limited. Any other argument, from my point of view, is that form of semantic lap-dancing referred to as mental masturbation.

  • Anonymous

    because that never happens now.

  • Jerry Squarey

    Just try and imagine if St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital did that!

  • Jerry Squarey

    The perfect solution to to end capitalism.