If you’ve never heard of the the TPP you’re probably not alone. A lot of people have gone through a lot of trouble to try and make sure that you haven’t heard of it. Even if you had heard of it, you (like every member of Congress) had no idea what’s in it. That’s because so far, these talks have been kept strictly confidential and none of the terms of the agreement have been released to the public.
Yesterday WikiLeaks did there thing (thang?) and, yep, leaked it. You can see the entire draft here. But unless you’re well versed in legalese and big brother speak it may all sound Greek to you.
Not only should you know about this agreement but it should scare the shit out of you. From everything we’ve heard since the leak this is a bunch of nations negotiating what amounts to a backdoor to SOPA/PIPA. Luckily for you guys we have entertainment, video game, ip, and internet attorney David Philip Graham to help us break this down. I’ll include some of his excerpts below but you can read his entire breakdown on his blog right here.
To start, there would be more protection for geographical indications, which are rights to names based on location (like how sparkling wine is only “champagne” if it’s from Champagne France). While the international community has a long history of protecting these rights, the US hasn’t been quite as interested. In fact we only have a few geographical indicators (like Florida oranges and Idaho potatoes), and even those are traditional trademarks registered by those respective states. But while we may not care much about this, under TPP we’d be forced to protect geographical indications more seriously.
Perhaps a more serious change is to patent law. The TPP provides for a significant increase in the kinds of things that can be patented, including plants, animals, biological processes, video game rules, diagrams and methods of mental processes, mathematical formulas by themselves, business plans, software by itself, artwork, books, and more. US law already allows for at least a limited protection of some of these, like granting software and business patents under certain circumstances. But neither the US nor anyone else protects the rest.
Some of that language is pretty scary on its face. What are “diagrams, plans, rules and methods for carrying out mental processes?” Why are we patenting things that are already protected by copyright like art and written works…
…On top of newly patentable subject matter, the US also wants standards for granting patents to be relaxed in many countries. American law already allows for slightly easier standards, requiring only utility rather than the European standard of industrial applicability. In the TPP, the US proposes forcing that US utility standard on all the signatory countries. The TPP would also effectively lengthen the term of patent protection by not counting the granting process, which can sometimes take years, toward the total patent term. Patented items can even be re-patented after their initial expiration in circumstances where the items are claimed to have new uses.
What this looks like are a bunch of governments getting together to negotiate on behalf of the better interests of their respective corporate interests. Every review I’ve seen of this agreement has said that this does not sound good for competition. If you don’t have a team of lawyers behind you then you better not try and innovate anything because you will be stepping on someone’s toes somewhere.
What do you guys think about the agreement? Let’s hear it in the comments.