The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has released its annual Special 301 Report on the adequacy and effectiveness of US trading partners’ protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR). Significant elements of the 2014 Special 301 Report include:
“The United States is an innovation economy. We are the global leader in research and development. We have given rise to some of the most creative, inventive and entrepreneurial businesses in the world, contributing significantly to advances in global health, the development of the digital economy and the education and entertainment of billions of people worldwide. More than 30 million Americans owe their jobs directly to these and other innovative industries. USTR is fully committed to unlocking opportunity for those Americans to share their inventions and creations with people all over the world without their work being infringed or misappropriated,” said Ambassador Michael Froman.
“Release of the 2014 Special 301 Report marks 25 years since USTR published the first Special 301 ‘Fact Sheet.’ In that time, we have achieved dramatic changes in the international intellectual property landscape. The Obama Administration is committed to meaningful and sustained engagement with trading partners — from China to India to Canada — with the goal of resolving intellectual property-related concerns so that Americans and American firms can compete on a level playing field in those markets.”
“I would like to congratulate the Governments of Italy and the Philippines on their removal from the Watch List. Both were named in the first Special 301 Fact Sheet and in many annual reports since, but today we acknowledge their accomplishments and encourage them to continue their progress,” Ambassador Froman concluded. “Likewise, we congratulate Israel on its removal from the Watch List earlier this year.”.
In this year’s report, trading partners on the Priority Watch List present the most significant concerns regarding insufficient IPR protection or enforcement, or otherwise limited market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection. Ten countries — Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela — are on the Priority Watch List. These countries will be the subject of particularly intense bilateral engagement during the coming year.
Twenty-seven trading partners are on the Watch List, also meriting bilateral attention to address underlying IPR problems: Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
USTR also announces that it will launch several Out-of-Cycle Reviews to enhance engagement with trading partners and encourage progress on IPR issues of concern. USTR will conduct OCRs of Priority Watch List country India and Watch List countries Kuwait and Paraguay. Although Spain is not listed in the Report, USTR announces the intention to continue an OCR, which was initiated in 2013, to monitor anticipated improvements in Spain’s enforcement regime. USTR may conduct additional OCRs of other trading partners as circumstances warrant, or as requested by the trading partner.
Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), described the Special 301 report as “a critical tool” in reducing online content theft around the world and ensuring that the hard work of creators and makers is protected. “This year’s report shows the great progress that is being made in territories such as Italy, but also highlights the numerous challenges that we continue to face around the world. The MPAA commends US Trade Representative Mike Froman and his team for their continued leadership and diligent attention to these important efforts.”
Dodd added, “Italy has made a real effort to protect and support the people who work in its creative sectors.” Dodd went on to say that, “the MPAA applauds Italy’s leadership in developing a fast-track online enforcement system for massive infringements. The Italian Communications Authority has addressed the challenge of achieving a balance for the protection of users and creators alike and is to be commended for its work.”
This year’s report also highlights the continued challenges the creative industries confront in Switzerland and it is the hope of the MPAA that the Government of Switzerland will follow Italy’s lead and prioritise the importance of protecting intellectual property rights on the Internet, fostering a healthy and legitimate online marketplace.