Saturday January 25 ,2014 : ANTIGUA GEARS UP FOR SOME U.S. PAYBACK
Legislative changes will clear the way to remove Intellectual Property protection for the Unites States.
The now legendary fifteen-year-long dispute over online gambling between the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and that of the United States is set to enter a new phase as the former introduces legislative changes regarding copyright that are designed to remove intellectual property protection for the United States.
The publication Caribbean 360 reported Friday that parliament has been informed that Antigua's Baldwin Spencer administration intends to make changes to the copyright legalization this year.
Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack said the once flourishing Antiguan gaming industry has been ruined by US laws prohibiting and criminalising the provisions of remote gaming services from Antigua and Barbuda to consumers in the United States.
She told legislators that these discriminatory US laws have been held to be in violation of international law at the World Trade Organisation, and that repeated attempts to resolve the issue through negotiations had failed.
“Accordingly, necessary arrangements will be made to the Copyright Act, the Trademark Act and the Patents Act to invoke the World Trade Organisation-approved sanction by removing any protection which US intellectual property may have in Antigua and Barbuda,” she said.
Antigua and Barbuda has criticised the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the World Trade Organisation under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens.
In 2005, the WTO ruled that Washington had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites. Antigua claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the US action, but the WTO awarded the island US$21 million in annual pay-back initiatives.
In its final ruling, the WTO allowed Antigua and Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights in order to achieve compensation.
Ambassador Colin Murdoch, who headed the local delegation to the latest rounds of talks with Washington, said that even if all possible elements in the US proposal were aggregated, the value of the offer would be considerably less than the US$21 million in annual damages awarded by a WTO panel back in 2007.
The Baldwin Spencer administration has appointed a WTO Gaming Negotiation Team chaired by Attorney General Justin Simon QC, and including Murdoch, who is the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Trade, Industry and Commerce.
This committee has the specific objective of designing and implementing suitable measures to apply the WTO-authorised intellectual property right suspensions against US companies.