The European Commission (EC) will ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule on the legality of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
Commissioner Karel De Gucth said he and 22 other commissioners were seeking to clarify whether ACTA was compatible with intrinsic European rights.
"We are planning to ask Europe's highest court to assess whether ACTA is incompatible with the EU's fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property," he said.
The ACTA treaty has been subject to intense scrutiny and protests for several weeks after 22 European nations signed up to the agreement, with several now backing out on the deal, admitting they had not fully understood the implications of the proposed legislation.
De Gucth said while the EC has already given its backing to the treaty it was important it was given legal scrutiny.
"The EC has a responsibility to provide our parliamentary representatives and the public at large with the most detailed and accurate information available," he said.
Justice commissioner Vivine Reding also gave her backing to the referral of ACTA to the ECJ.
“Copyright protection can never be a justification for eliminating freedom of expression or freedom of information. Blocking the internet is never an option,” she said.
However, despite referring the document to the ECJ, De Gucth defended much of ACTA, claiming it would not led to website blocking or changes in how services operate.
"ACTA will change nothing about how we use the internet and social websites today - since it does not introduce any new rules. ACTA only helps to enforce what is already law," he said.
"ACTA will not censor websites or shut them down; ACTA will not hinder freedom of the internet or freedom of speech. Let's cut through this fog of uncertainty and put ACTA in the spotlight of our highest independent judicial authority."
As such Peter Bradwell of the Open Rights Group warned the referral was merely an attempt by the EC to legitimise the document.
"The EC has a vested interest in seeing ACTA pass. They show every sign of making sure they get the answers they want to try to give ACTA a fig leaf of legitimacy," he said.
"This is also clearly an attempt by the EC to pause the ratification process in the hope protests lose their heat. If the EC expects these protests about clumsy and dangerous internet policies to fade away, they are very much mistaken."
The document is set to be discussed in the European Parliament for the first time on 1 March, with MEPs still able to veto the treaty.
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.