Lat night the House voted overwhelmingly to establish new U.S. policy that will oppose any global climate change treaty that weakens the IP rights of American "green technology." The measure is part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R.2410) and reads, in part, as follows:
SEC. 329. PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS.
(a) Resources To Protect Intellectual Property Rights- The Secretary of State shall ensure that the protection in foreign countries of the intellectual property rights of
United States persons in other countries is a significant component of United States foreign policy in general and in relations with individual countries. The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service and other agencies as appropriate, shall ensure that adequate resources are available at diplomatic missions in any country that is identified under section 182(a)(1) of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2242(a)(1)) to ensure--
(1) support for enforcement action against violations of the intellectual property rights of United States persons in such country; and
(2) cooperation with the host government to reform its applicable laws, regulations, practices, and agencies to enable that government to fulfill its international and bilateral obligations with respect to intellectual property rights.
The vote comes in anticipation of the upcoming negotiations in December as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Previously, there was sufficient chatter (link) in international circles on compulsory licenses, IP seizures and the outright abolition of patents on low-carbon technology, that Congress felt it necessary to clarify the US's IP position up front. Interestingly, Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary was quoted by the NYT in March (link) saying the following:
If countries actively helped each other, they would also reap the home benefits of using less energy. So any area like that I think is where we should work very hard in a very collaborative way — by very collaborative I mean
share all intellectual property as much as possible. And in my meetings
with my counterparts in other countries, when we talk about this they say, yes,
we really should do this.
Of course, subsequent clarifications indicated that the statement was not to be taken literally, but it nevertheless made the industry uncomfortable.
To read the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, click here (link)
See also National Journal Online, "Foreign Affairs Bill Passes With IP Text" (link)
NJO, "Groups Back Stronger 'Green' IP Rights" (link)