Sometimes us copyright enthusiasts (on either side of the battle) get so caught up in the fervor of the copyright/copyleft war that they miss some sort of key part of the puzzle. Ipper goldenrail found herself quite guilty of this during the opening remarks at this year’s INTA (International Trademark Association) meeting when the INTA President mentioned benefits of ACTA.
Several blogs have reported on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement being worked out in secret between big countries under the influence of big companies. Most of the posts deal with the copyright and enforcement implications of the new trade agreement. (example)
As it turns out, ACTA might actually have some benefits, it might deal with, gasp, anti-counterfeiting! Although the trademark battle against counterfeit goods is in the title of the trade agreement, this aspect has often been overlooked. Anti-counterfeiting protection is important on a different level than copyright protections. Copyright protections protect right holders. Anti-counterfeiting measures protect brand owners and the public.
The purpose of a trademark is to let consumers know at a glance what they can expect from a protect. Consumers associate brand names with certain levels of quality and expect consistency. Counterfeit goods destroy this reliance and can jeopardize the health and safety of consumers. The public welfare concerns implicated by counterfeit goods make tougher anti-counterfeit rules a plus for everyone except the counterfeiter.
[*note: sometimes people confuse counterfeit and generic, especially in regards to pharmaceuticals. These are not the same thing; generics do not pose the same risks.]
It would be nice to take a look at the anti-counterfeiting provisions in ACTA to see specifically how the trade agreement might help protect against counterfeit goods. Unfortunately, the secrecy about which many scholars have bitterly (and rightly) complained prevents us from taking a close look.