On January 2, the United States Trade Representative issued its Federal Register Notice for the Special 301 Review. It is seeking “written submissions from the public concerning foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.” USTR will also host an open hearing for the 2014 Special 301 Review. Any interested party may testify, as long as notice of intent to testify is given by the deadline below.
Last week, The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) submitted a report to Congress on the state of China’s compliance with WTO rules, including those on intellectual property (the TRIPS Agreement). The report states that “China has established a framework of laws, regulations and departmental rules that largely satisfies its WTO commitment.” [p.17] However, USTR wants China to strengthen laws that exceed the level required by TRIPS, and the report describes its efforts to strengthen the laws, and the enforcement of those laws, especially online.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Trade Representative issued a request for public comments regarding the 2014 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE Report). Comments may be submitted by “any interested person,” and they are due on October 22, 2013.
The NTE report is defined in the request for comments as an annual report that “sets out an inventory of the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, U.S. foreign direct investment, and protection of intellectual property rights. The inventory facilitates U.S. negotiations aimed at reducing or eliminating these barriers.”
[Cross-posted with permission from the DisCo Blog, (Link)] This morning, the new USTR Michael Froman testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means about a variety of trade policy issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In response to a question about access to medicine from Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ambassador Froman emphasized the need for balance in intellectual property policy. Froman said the U.S. has been educating trade partners and stakeholders about provisions in U.S. law that achieve this balance, and been engaged in dialogues about principles.
Big Pharma shows its influence in the Senate Finance Committee
[Reposted with permission from Oxfam America (Link)] Teenagers are notorious for giving one-word responses when their parents inquire how school is going. Last week’s Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on Michael Froman’s nomination as US Trade Representative reminded me of this dynamic.
Because so much of the interrogation airtime was devoted to grandstanding, rather than actual questioning, Mr. Froman seemed to have little option other than to say “yes” and express his willingness to work with a Senator on an issue. Teenagers will say just enough to end their parents’ lecturing and get them off of their backs, eye rolls an added bonus. Well-intentioned parents, after all, were teenagers once too and want to impart their knowledge.
USTR has sent witnesses the schedule for its Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership hearing on May 29-30. There will be 61 witnesses over the two days. Each witness will have 5 minutes to give remakrks, and 5 minutes for Q&A.
Most of the civil society groups that work on intellectual property issues will testify on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the industry groups that frequently weigh in on IP matters are scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
This is a quick note about one of the items in this year’s Special 301 Report, released by USTR this morning. The report attacks the recent Indian Novartis ruling in unusually direct language. The ruling upheld the denial of a patent on Glivec for failing to meet patentability requirements under Section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act, (a longer explanation is here). The Special 301 report has this to say on the matter:
Today the U.S. Trade Representative issued a Federal Register Notice seeking comments on the upcoming trade agreement negotiations with the EU. The notice also announces that USTR will hold hearings on May 29-30 on “specific issues pertaining to the proposed negotiations.” The deadline for submitting written comments for the record, or requests to testify, is May 10. The Trade Act requires the executive branch, once it has announced its intention to negotiate a trade agreement, to “afford interested persons an opportunity to present their views regarding any matter relevant to the proposed agreement.”
Last month, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Trade Policy Report raised some eyebrows when it scolded Canada for not meeting its ACTA “obligations,” despite the fact that the Agreement is not in effect. (See for instance, Michael Geist’s blog quoting the report). The Trade Policy Report also noted that the U.S. is “working with Japan and other negotiating parties to bring the ACTA into force.”
Today USTR published another one of its annual reports, the National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, which continues to discuss ACTA as a trade agreement that is moving forward.
Yesterday the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) held a panel on “21st Century Issues” in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, which featured speakers on e-commerce/telecommunications, SOEs, regulatory coherence, and intellectual property.
According to an account of the discussion on ustr.gov, IP negotiator Probir Mehta “stressed that the U.S. is pushing for binding commitments from TPP partners so that they also achieve a balance in their copyright systems in providing exceptions and limitations for scholarship, criticism, news reporting, research and other legitimate purposes — as in the United States.” During the Q&A, Mehta “reminded listeners that consistency with U.S. law means that the United States also wants to see reflected the wealth of exceptions and limitations that provide great benefits to American consumers, scholars, writers, artists, and others.”
Sen. Max Baucus (Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) and Sen. Orin Hatch (the Committee’s Ranking Minority Member) wrote Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis on March 22 asking for “comprehensive, strong, binding and enforceable” intellectual property protections in the Trans Pacific Partnership. Specifically, the letter from Sens. Baucus and Hatch asks that USTR seek “commitments from our trading partners that reflect the level of protection under U.S. law, for example 12 years of regulatory data protection for biologic pharmaceuticals.”
Yesterday the Interagency Special 301 Committee chaired by the US Trade Representative held its annual public hearing. An earlier blog described the government testimony – this one describes the comments from industry groups and civil society.
Joan McGivern testified for American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), a membership organization with over 450,000 members, mostly individuals whose livelihoods depend on making money from music. She told the panel their assistance is needed by the membership to “collect their paychecks.”