By  on October 2, 2011

WASHINGTON The U.S. and seven other countries signed a groundbreaking anti-counterfeiting agreement in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday, aimed at bolstering the global fight against counterfeit consumer products that continue to hurt copyright and trademark holders around the world.

Representatives from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in the ceremony.

“Protecting intellectual property is essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “The ACTA provides a platform for the Obama Administration to work cooperatively with other governments to advance the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Today marks a major milestone in the process of putting this Agreement into force.”

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said between 10 and 20 million American jobs depend on intellectual property rights, according to studies and industry estimates. The ACTA aims to provide greater protection for U.S. exporters in innovative and creative industries.

The fashion industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to curb the proliferation of counterfeit products.

Footwear, apparel and accessories were among the top 10 counterfeit items seized by U.S. officials during fiscal 2010.

For the fifth year in a row, footwear was the top commodity seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accounting for 24 percent of a total of 19,959 seizures valued at $188.1 million in the year ended Sept. 30.

Customs and ICE officials seized $45.7 million worth of bogus footwear in the fiscal year. Counterfeit consumer electronics seizures came in second, with a value of $33.6 million, accounting for 18 percent of the total.

Federal agencies also seized $18.6 million worth of counterfeit apparel, giving it a ranking of third and representing 10 percent of the total value of seizures. Seizures of fake handbags, wallets and backpacks totaled $15.4 million, representing another 8 percent of the total, ranking it fourth, while, ranking ninth, seizures of jewelry were $6.7 million and accounted for 4 percent of the total.

The multilateral accord will establish an international legal framework for fighting counterfeiting and digital piracy worldwide and increase cooperation in the areas of criminal enforcement, enforcement at the border, civil and administrative actions and distribution of intellectual property rights infringing material and products on the Internet.

In Tokyo on Saturday, representatives of the European Union, Mexico, and Switzerland also attended the ceremony but have not yet signed the agreement because they must complete their domestic procedures to enable them to sign.

The ACTA is consistent with existing U.S. law and does not need Congressional approval.

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