Transatlantic shenanigans

By Andrew Whitehead on Apr 17, 13 01:43 PM in Law

In the late 1950s - after her career as a research chemist, and before being elected to Parliament - Baroness Thatcher was a barrister in private practice specializing in tax and patents.

No doubt she would therefore have had something to say about the place for intellectual property rights (IPR) in the impending EU-US trade talks.

The trade talks were officially launched in February. According to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, "a future deal between the world's two most important economic powers will be a game-changer, giving a strong boost to our economies on both sides of the Atlantic."

However, civil rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic are anxious that any trade deal excludes any provisions related to patents, copyright, trademarks or other forms of IPR. The concern is the balance of power between the global corporates and the individual, not only in areas such as medicine and clean tech but also in the realms of open internet access and a world where it is extremely easy to inadvertently infringe copyright.

This issue has been rumbling on for some time; it was only last summer that the European Parliament refused to ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which aimed to clamp down on counterfeiting and copyright infringement.

On the other hand, the US has been keen to ensure sufficient global protection for US intellectual property, and the suspicions are that it will try and use the trade talks to revive aspects of the ACTA treaty.

But if there are concerns on this side of the Atlantic of hidden agendas, the US negotiators will be equally wary of EU machinations in the related area of data protection.

The European Commission has formed the view that the EU's current data protection rules no longer meet the needs of a digital age, and has proposed a major overhaul.

Part of the reform package is a draft EU Regulation, which will apply in both domestic and cross border transfers of data, and will catch US companies dealing in Europe and holding the personal data of EU citizens. The draft Regulation is wide in scope, giving individuals easier access to their own data, the ability to transfer it from one service provider to another, and the right "to be forgotten". These enhanced rights are complemented by much greater enforcement powers.

US tech companies, including the likes of Google and Facebook, have been lobbying fiercely. A key concern is that this package of measures will introduce more red tape and cost; that it fails to maintain the balance between protecting civil liberties on the one hand, and allowing economic growth and innovation on the other, by being too prescriptive as to how businesses should comply to ensure rights of individuals are protected.

These trade talks are clearly going to be tricky, and Angela Merkel has perhaps been persuaded that the Brits and their 'special relationship' might turn out to be useful members of the 'team Europe' negotiation team (not least because the UK has raised its own objections to the draft Data Protection Regulation some of which are shared by Germany).

No surprise, therefore, to see Mr and Mrs Cameron and the kids get the special Schloss treatment last week.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
My postings | David Bailey's RSS feed My feed

Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
My postings | Stuart Pemble's RSS feed My feed

John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of and
My postings | John Clancy's RSS feed My feed

John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
My postings | John Samuels's RSS feed My feed

Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (
My postings | Chris Tomlinson's RSS feed My feed

Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
My postings | Andrew Whitehead's RSS feed My feed

Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
My postings | Keith Gabriel's RSS feed My feed

Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
My postings  | Beverley Nielsen'a RSS feed My feed

Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
My postings | Mike Loftus's RSS feed My feed

Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
My postings | Richard Halstead's RSS feed My feed

Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
My postings | Karl Edge's RSS feed My feed

Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
My postings | Peter Owen's RSS feed My feed

Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
My postings | Dr Steven McCabe's RSS feed My feed

Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
My postings

Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
My postings

Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
My postings

Latest Birmingham Post Lifestyle blog

Lifestyle Blog

Birmingham Post staff and guest bloggers from the midlands give you the lowdown on what's happening in your region and some musings on culture in the UK and beyond.

Keep up to date

Sponsored Links