Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations

The request was refused by Intellectual Property Office.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please list the names of any UKIPO officers involved in the ACTA negotiations and each of their roles in the negotiations. Additionally, please provide details of any other persons involved in the ACTA negotiations on behalf of the United Kingdom.

Please also provide any current draft(s) of the "Civil Enforcement", "Border Measures", "Criminal Enforcement", and "Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement in the Digital Environment" sections of ACTA.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Brett

Alison Smith, Intellectual Property Office

Dear Mr Brett

Thank you for your email of 4 November 2009 requesting information about ACTA.

Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be answered within twenty working days.

If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Smith
Records Officer
Intellectual Property Office
tel: 01633 814587
email: [email address]

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Alison Smith, Intellectual Property Office

Dear Mr Brett

Thank you for your request for information relating to ACTA, in particular the most recent drafts of a number of its chapters as well as the names and roles of IPO officials involved in the negotiations.

The goal of the ACTA negotiations is to provide an international framework that improves the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) laws. It does not intend to create new intellectual property rights or laws, but to create improved international standards on how to take action against large-scale infringements of IPR.

The European Commission (EC) and the Presidency of the Council of the European Communities have been mandated to negotiate ACTA on behalf of the European Community and the Member States. As such UK interests, represented by the Intellectual Property Office, feed into the EU negotiating position.

Overall responsibility for ACTA negotiations within the IPO falls to the acting CEO of the Intellectual Property Office, Mr Sean Dennehey, whilst overall responsibility for international policy falls to Mr Peter Holland (Director of International Policy).

With regard to your request for the names and roles of officials and other persons directly involved in these negotiations, s.40 of the Freedom of Information Act permits the withholding of personal information, such as the names of junior officials, as the release of their identity would breach the first data protection principle. The release of such information would be neither fair nor meet condition 6(1) of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act 1998, and there appear to be no overriding interests that outweigh the rights afforded by the Act to the junior public servants in question.

The identities of officials are also withheld by virtue of s.36(2)c (disclosure of information likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs). The reason why this exemption applies is there may be a significant risk of exposure of officers who are not public facing to increased communication, which could expose them to inappropriate pressure by attempts to circumvent the established and authoritative communication channels. This is a qualified exemption and the decision to withhold this information is based on the conclusion that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

I understand your wish to communicate your views and concerns to those involved in these negotiations. These channels are already open to you as members of the public may contact relevant officials to raise specific issues and discuss government business by contacting the department through the departmental response centre (http://www.ipo.gov.uk/about/contact.htm) or via a dedicated email account: [email address]

Information regarding ACTA is updated as often as possible on our website at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/pro-crime-acta.htm . This site includes a detailed summary of the key elements under negotiation (http://www.ipo.gov.uk/acta-summary.pdf). I would also wish to clarify that so far only government officials have been involved in the ACTA negotiations on behalf of the UK.

I regret that the draft negotiating texts you have requested are also withheld as they are exempt under the following sections of the Freedom of Information Act:
s.35(1)a (formulation of Government policy) and s.27(2) (international relations).

These are qualified exemptions and are therefore subject to a public interest test. After careful consideration of all the circumstances of the case, the conclusion reached is that the public interest in maintaining these exemptions outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information at this stage.

For your information, these are the arguments taken into account in determining that the ACTA draft negotiating texts should be withheld. There is some general public interest in the disclosure of information since greater transparency makes the Government more accountable to the electorate and increases trust, and also enables the public contribution to policy making to become more effective. However, we consider that there is greater public interest in maintaining the exemption provided for in s.27(2) as we believe that disclosure at this stage of the negotiations would be likely to prejudice the outcome. This in turn would be likely to provoke a negative reaction from the other negotiating parties concerned that might damage the United Kingdom's relations with them and which would damage our ability to protect, promote and secure an outcome in the United Kingdom interests at the negotiations.

Officials must also consider the reputational effects on the Government itself of the premature release of documents or assessments that are "work-in-progress" and would not otherwise be considered fit for publication because they are not fully developed. There is also the danger that disclosure of the process of interdepartmental consideration may undermine the collective responsibility of the Government if premature release of considerations and/or discussions prejudices the full development of policy options or the willingness of ministers and officials to exchange frank views during policy development in future. For these reasons the information requested is withheld by virtue of s.35(1)a.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me.

If you are unhappy with the way in which your request for information has been handled you may seek an internal review within 2 months of the date that our reply is sent to you. Requests will be dealt with in 20 working days and if at the end of this time we are unable to respond, we will write to you explaining the reasons and giving you a new date. Such a request should be sent to the address below.

Chief Executive
Intellectual Property Office
PO Box 49
Cardiff Road
Newport
South Wales
NP10 8YU

or email [email address]

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House,
Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire,
SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,

Alison Smith
Records Officer
Intellectual Property Office
Tel: 01633 814587

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