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Countries finalize anti-counterfeit trade pact text

By Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Negotiators from nearly 40 countries have finalized the text of an international agreement to help fight the growing trade in fake and pirated goods, the European Commission and the United States said on Monday.

The negotiators settled a handful of differences that held up a deal on the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Tokyo last month.

"The efforts of the EU and its ACTA partners will mean improved international standards of intellectual property rights enforcement whilst fully respecting the rights of citizens," European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated that global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods rose to $250 billion in 2007 from $100 billion in 2000.

Countries participating in talks were the United States, the European Union and its 27 member states, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland, and two developing countries -- Morocco and Mexico.

Talks had largely pitted the United States against the EU, with the EU demanding broad protection for its traditional food names such as Parmesan cheese -- known as geographical indicators -- as well as for fashion and car designs.

The United States and some other countries appealed for a narrower agreement that would protect mainly copyright and trademarks, whose violation has ravaged profits in the U.S. entertainment industry.

The current text still needs approval and ratification by each of the negotiators' legal teams, assemblies and, in the case of the EU, member states -- a process that may take until late 2011 to complete, an EU official said.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration will ask for public comment on the agreement before formally deciding whether to sign the agreement, said Nefeterius McPherson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

Some critics want Obama to submit the agreement to Congress for approval. The administration has said that is not needed because the pact does not require any changes to U.S. law.

SETTLING DIFFERENCES

The text will allow signatories to chose whether to make the illegal "camcording" of films in a cinema a criminal offense. Countries that do criminalize camcording will have no compulsory jail sentences -- a victory to the EU, which had argued against criminal penalties.

The new text puts the enforcement of trademarks and geographical indicators at the border on a more equal footing with copyright and patents compared to previous texts, an EU spokesman said.

But in a compromise by the EU, the new text is less explicit about penalizing people who set up websites to sell fake goods. The United States, backed by South Korea and Mexico, had demanded greater focus on copyright violations like illegal file-sharing of music and films.

Food names that are seen as generic will keep that status in their country, allowing Kraft for instance to continue selling parmesan cheese that doesn't come from the Italian region.

The countries hope large trading nations such as China, India and Brazil will eventually join the pact.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading business group, said it was still reviewing the final language but welcomed Monday's announcement as a major step.

"Proactive policies that curb IP theft such as ACTA are absolutely necessary to ensure our continued economic recovery by protecting American innovators, consumers, and workers," the group said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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