[Inside U.S. Trade, Link] Industry groups are calling on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to elevate Colombia to its list of most egregious intellectual property violators, claiming that Bogota’s IP regime runs afoul of commitments it made in its trade agreement with the U.S. and violates World Trade Organization obligations. In USTR’s annual Special 301 report, released in April, Colombia was listed on what is known as the “watch list,” in addition to being one of three countries selected for an out-of-cycle review. …In that report, USTR knocked Colombia for not delivering on IP commitments outlined in the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and said it would monitor the implementation of the country’s National Development Plan (NDP) for policies that could “undermine innovation and IP systems.” The agency also cited online piracy, copyright enforcement and regulatory approvals for pharmaceutical products as areas to watch in 2017.
[William New, IP Watch, Link (CC-BY-SA] The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) today announced an “out-of-cycle” review of Thailand’s intellectual property policies after what USTR said were reports of improvement on several IP issues including trademarks and enforcement. Another area of the review will be pharmaceuticals. USTR Robert Lighthizer announced the review of Thailand’s status under the US “Special 301” process that unilaterally assesses trading partners’ treatment of US intellectual property rights. Lighthizer was meeting in Washington, DC with Thailand’s Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn to “discuss ways to increase trade and reduce the trade deficit between the United States and Thailand.”
[Reposted from EFF Deeplinks, Link (CC-BY)] Last Friday the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2017 edition of its Special 301 Report [PDF], which the USTR issues each year to “name and shame” other countries that the U.S. claims should be doing more to protect and enforce their copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Most of these demands exceed those countries’ legal obligations, which makes the Special 301 Report an instrument of political rhetoric, rather than a document with any international legal status.
Twenty trade associations have written the House and Senate leadership urging Congressional engagement on the trade relationship between the U.S. and India. Their letter identifies intellectual property protection as an “ongoing challenge.” It highlights diplomatic structures where the countries have discussed IP and other issues, then notes that “WTO dispute settlement has played and should continue to play a key role in ensuring that India follows through on its international commitments.”
The U.S. Trade Representative has requested comments for the 2017 Special 301 Report, in which it lists countries that it alleges “deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.” The content is based on written comments (mostly those submitted IP owners and business associations), testimony at a hearing, and on consultations with other governmental departments.
Any interested party may submit comments, and any interested party may testify at the open hearing. The deadline for submissions and requests to testify is February 9; the hearing is February 28; and the Special 301 Report will be released “On or about April 30.” See the Federal Register notice for further details and submission instructions.
The Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) respectfully submits the following comments regarding the 2016 Special 301 Out of Cycle Review of Notorious Markets (Docket No. USTR-2016-2013), as requested by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) … we have noticed a disturbing trend in submissions: using the Special 301 process to attempt to restrict technology innovation. Certain submissions favor an approach to intellectual property and infringement protections that would be harmful to the Internet infrastructure marketplace, and therefore to the Internet itself, as well as the global U.S. and global economies.
Cross posted from Afro Leo, Link (CC-BY)
Afro-IP regularly reports on how Africa fares in the Special 301 Report issued annually by the USTR (see links to some previous posts below).
The 2016 Report was released at the end of April 2016. The generation of the report through a unilateral US process and its goal have been protested by several countries. For instance, as noted by Mike Palmedo in his post on the 2016 report, both India and Chile have registered their displeasure.
[J. Carlos Lara & Pablo Viollier, Derechos Digitales, Link (CC-BY-SA) ] Nos hemos acostumbrado a ver, una vez al año, las noticias informando que varios de nuestros países está en la llamada “lista negra de la piratería”. No es que nuestros mares estén llenos de asaltantes de embarcaciones, sino que existe un intenso manejo de prensa que acompaña a la publicación del Special Report 301 de la USTR, el órgano encargado de la política comercial exterior de Estados Unidos. El mismo que, entre otras cosas, negocia (léase: intenta imponer condiciones) a nombre de los Estados Unidos en tratados internacionales como TPP y TiSA.
Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2016 Special 301 Report. The report satisfies the longstanding legislative requirement that it identify “those foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), or deny fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection.” Countries are either identified as a Priority Foreign Country (which triggers a process that can lead to sanctions) or placed on the Priority Watch List or the Watch List.
The World Trade Organization prohibits Members from unilaterally sanctioning each other, so it has become rare for a country to be included as a Priority Foreign Country. However, this year a new law requires USTR to develop “action plans” with countries on the Priority Watch List and allows “appropriate actions” if the U.S. is unsatisfied with its trading partners’ progress on these plans.
Flexible Exceptions Work in Developing Countries
I was asked in the hearing to comment on the proposition that flexible exceptions like fair use are only appropriate for the U.S. or other countries with highly developed adjudication systems. As I noted in the hearing, this idea is based on some key fallacies.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced a “work plan” with Honduras to strengthen IP enforcement there. According to a USTR press release, Honduras will “substantially increase the number of prosecutors specializing in criminal IPR enforcement by the end of this March. The GOH has also committed to publish quarterly reports on prosecution case activity, in order to promote transparency and accountability as this plan is implemented. Additionally, the Work Plan addresses signal piracy in cable and satellite transmissions. Prosecutors will work to efficiently resolve pending criminal investigations associated with this problem and GOH authorities will engage with rights holders to promote expanded use of administrative enforcement options. The GOH’s cable regulatory authorities have committed to accept right holder identification of authorized cable licensees, and to take appropriate administrative enforcement actions, including the imposition of fines and suspension of business licenses in appropriate cases. These regulatory authorities also committed to publish quarterly reports on administrative enforcement activity.” The work plan also addresses concerns over the scope of geographical indications.
The first part of this submission calls on USTR to adopt two interpretive principles in implementing the Special 301 statute. USTR should give proportional consideration to appropriate limitations and exceptions in evaluating foreign intellectual property systems, including by mentioning positive examples of limitations and exceptions in its “best practices” and “positive developments” identifications, and by listing countries on watch lists for egregious cases where a lack of limitations and exceptions stands as a barrier to US trade.