There’s an appeals case sitting before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that could set a dangerous precedent for intellectual property protection for the chemical industry.
In the case of Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe v. European Commission, the plaintiffs requested disclosure of confidential business information (CBI) submitted to the German government to support the regulatory approval of glyphosate, a widely used pesticide. Although this request was initially rejected by the European Commission (EC) on the ground that the information was proprietary, the plaintiffs appealed this decision to the European General Court (EGC). The EGC decided in the plaintiffs’ favor, requiring the European Commission to make the confidential information public.
In its opinion, the EGC based its decision on a broad interpretation of the Aarhus Convention, which the court determined favors the public’s right to environmental information held by European authorities, even though, in this particular case, such disclosure would undermine the protection of private commercial interests.
This case has broad implications not only for the crop protection industry, but for the many (if not all), U.S. chemical manufacturers operating both in the U.S., Europe and around the world. If the EGC’s decision is upheld, the European Comission will be forced to make pesticide and other chemical manufacturers’ CBI public. Such forced disclosure of CBI will most certainly undermine the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) these manufacturers hold in the U.S., and will likely have broad international ramifications, most notably on trade.
Intellectual property rights, including trade secrets and other CBI, are proven drivers of innovation, global competitiveness of businesses, and economic growth. A wholesale disclosure of proprietary information can dramatically alter the important policy balance between the public’s interest in relevant health and safety information and competitive commercial and economic interests achieved through the protection of IPRs, trade secrets and CBI.
For these reasons, CropLife America (CLA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) recently filed a motion to intervene in the international appeal before the European Court of Justice.
In addition to intervening in this case, CLA, NAM and ACC will continue to work with other associations – including those in Europe – on strategies to ensure that lawful protection of intellectual property is preserved.