Special 301 ReportIn April 2012, the The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued its “2012 Special 301 Report” (Report) in which it reviews the state of intellectual property rights protection and enforcement in trading partners around the world.  It’s an interesting document, which underscores the importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) to world economy, the need to protect those rights, and the need for IPR holders to be constantly vigilant.  Here are some highlights.

Positive developments in IP are reported for Malaysia, Spain, Israel, Russia, and, yes, China.  Malaysia passed copyright amendments that prevent the circumvention of technological protection measures; establish a mechanism for cooperation by Internet service providers against piracy over the Internet; and prohibit the unauthorized camcording of motion pictures in theaters. Having enacted new laws against Internet copyright piracy, the United States has removed Spain from its IP Watch List.  The Report also notes that Israel has enacted a new law protecting against unfair commercial use and that  Russia has passed a law that establishes a specialized IPR court and amended its Criminal Code to revise criminal thresholds for copyright piracy.

China has recently established a State Council-level leadership structure, headed by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, to lead and coordinate IPR enforcement across China. This leadership structure is meant to enhance China’s ability to address IPR infringement.  Interestingly, the performance of provincial level officials will be measured based on enforcement of IPR in their regions.

USTR also describes various international initiatives to strengthen IPR protection and enforcement.  These include a Trans-Pacific Partnership with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam with the goal of creating a platform for integration across the region that will include strong standards for the protection and enforcement of IPR.

Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, and Singapore, along with the United States, signed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) for fighting trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.

The United States is also working with trading partners to strengthen IPR protection and enforcement through bilateral and regional agreements, including free trade agreements. In addition, Trade and Investment Framework Agreements between the United States and various trading partners have facilitated discussions on enhancing IPR protection and enforcement.  The Report goes on to describe other international initiatives. In one instance it states:

As an example of an outcome of such engagement, in November 2011, APEC Ministers endorsed the APEC Effective Practices for Addressing Unauthorized Camcording, which will assist APEC economies to implement public awareness efforts, engage in cooperation with the private sector on capacity building, and adopt effective legal frameworks to address the challenges of unauthorized camcording in cinemas.

The majority of the USTR report explains developments and changes in the so-called “Priority Watch” and “Watch” lists.  USTR created the Watch List to name countries where particular problems exist with respect to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for persons relying on IPR. Countries placed on the Priority Watch List are the focus of increased bilateral attention concerning the problem areas.

Countries named on the Watch List include Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Those name to the Priority Watch List are Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela.  You might be surprised by the appearance of Canada, which appears primarily because of the country’s failure to enact comprehensive copyright legislation and strengthen its boarder enforcement efforts.

To learn more about the IPR issues relevant to each of these countries, see the report, which can be downloaded here.

–Adam G. Garson, Esq.