Does the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso,  know the difference between a lobby group and a European Parliament committee? Or is the Eurozone crisis  getting his head into a muddle?  Why does he refer to the rights-holder lobby group International Trade Mark Association, when he really means the International Trade Committee? More importantly, how much has his office been in contact with rights-holders who want ACTA?

An official  letter sent  last week  from José Manuel Barroso to the head of the Green group in the European Parliament substitutes a lobby group for a European Parliament committee. The letter, seen by, was addressed to Green group leader, Daniel Cohn-Bendit,  and his colleague,  Rebecca Harms.  It   concerned ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement), and the referral to the European Court of Justice.  It was a serious letter. It clarifies that the court has not yet been formally “seized”. This is a  French  term for the formal submission of a document.  It says that the question will be sent to the court ‘within the next few weeks’.

That is important information. It is therefore concerning to read that the letter also says:

 On 29 February and 1 March, Mr De Gucht appeared before the International Trademark Association (INTA) Committee, where he gave further clarifications on the Commission's intention to refer ACTA to the Court of Justice.

 The point is that Barroso has muddled up two politically very different and separate  bodies that  are known by the acronym of 'INTA'. 

The  International Trade Committee  in the European Parliament is  known as the INTA committee.  The International Trade Committee has the lead role  on ACTA, and its recommendation on the Parliament's consent, will be the important one.

 Whereas the International Trademark Association is a lobby group that acts for the luxury goods manfuacturers  and international corporations that rely on trade marks. It also abbreviates its name to INTA.   The International Trademark Association board  includes a representative of  Fox Entertainment, a subsidiary of NewsCorp, that owns 20th Century Fox. 

 The International Trademark Association   put out a press statement in Febuary this year, implying that it would hope to provide evidence to the ECJ in the context of the referral and calling on the court to find favour of consent to ACTA. The February press statement said:  The referral provides an opportunity for interested parties to continue the discussions based on ACTA’s text itself [...]  INTA hopes that the European Court of Justice will make a considered and quick assessment of ACTA, acknowledge the serious threats that counterfeiting and piracy pose for the EU and provide the necessary clarity to pave the way for consent to the Treaty by the European Parliament and ratification by Member States.

 The ECJ referral of ACTA  has been discussed by the Commissioners at their weekly meeting that Mr Barroso chairs. The Commissioners put it on their agenda because of the mass street protests in the Winter, which blamed it for the flaws in ACTA. Thus, ACTA is a high-level matter for the Commission.

 Therefore, an error  - or freudian slip - of this nature is a serious one. And it begs the question. Has Commissioner De Gucht also presented before a committee of the  International Trademark Association ?

If a lobby group such as INTA is getting special access to policy-makers, at a moment when the political nature of ACTA is becoming critical, then this is something we, the public,  should know about.

This is an original article from You may re-publish it under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to  Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, Barroso’s confusion: trade marks or trade committee? , , 14  May   2012 . Commercial users - please contact me