Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

European Union: Commission Requests Opinion of European Court of Justice on Legality of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

(Apr. 20, 2012) On April 4, 2012, the European Commission referred the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an opinion on the legality and compatibility of ACTA with certain fundamental rights. The rights in question include the right to freedom of expression and information, the right to personal data protection, and the right to property, including the right to intellectual property, as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU). (Press Release, IP/12/354, European Commission, Update on ACTA's Referral to the European Court of Justice (Apr. 4, 2012); The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, European Parliament website (last visited Apr. 19, 2012).)

The signing by the EU, the United States, and Japan of ACTA, an international trade agreement designed to protect and strengthen intellectual property rights against counterfeit goods, including counterfeit generic medicines, has caused a public outcry across the EU, because of its potential to infringe on online freedom and fundamental rights. EU proponents argue that if ACTA is ratified, it would boost the economy by securing employment; protecting European innovation and creativity; and enhancing consumer confidence in the authenticity of the goods they purchase. Currently, the counterfeiting industry is flourishing in Europe, where it is estimated that it causes the loss of billions of euros annually. The national customs authorities have reported that they witnessed a tremendous surge in counterfeit goods that entered the EU during the period 2005 to 2010. (Press Release, supra.)

Since the Commission began negotiations in 2008 to sign ACTA, it has been criticized for lack of transparency and for failure to involve the European Parliament (EP). Public discussions have also intensified in recent months; European citizens have expressed serious concern about the agreement, by holding protests in several cities and petitioning the EP. The EP, which is expected to vote on ACTA in June, has been requested to withhold its vote until the ECJ issues its ruling. (EU Commission Urges Euro MPs to Hold Off ACTA Vote, AFP(Apr. 4, 2012); see also Constance Johnson, European Union: ACTA Signed in Tokyo, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Feb. 7, 2012).)