On April 28, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued the 2018 Special 301 Report. The Report identified 36 countries (12 on the Priority Watch List and 24 on the Watch List) as countries listed on the Priority Watch List as countries deemed to have “inadequate or ineffective” IP protection or enforcement or which deny market access to people relying on IP protection.
Countries listed on the Priority Watch List included: Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Ukraine and Venezuela.
“The report reflects the resolve of this Administration to call out foreign countries and expose the laws, policies, and practices that fail to provide adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement for US inventors, creators, brands, manufacturers, and service providers,” the report said. “The identification of the countries and IP-related market access barriers in this report and of steps necessary to address those barriers are a critical component of the Administration’s aggressive efforts to defend Americans from harmful IP-related trade barriers.”
- China made the list for the 14th year in a row for alleged intellectual property failings.
- USTR identified 36 countries on the Priority Watch List or Watch List. Trading partners on the Priority Watch List present the most significant concerns this year regarding inadequate or ineffective IP protection or enforcement or actions that otherwise limit market access for persons relying on IP protection.
- USTR identified 12 countries—Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Ukraine, and Venezuela—on the Priority Watch List. The IP issues in these countries will be the subject of intense bilateral engagement during the coming year.
- China is on the Priority Watch List for the 14th consecutive year. Longstanding and new IP concerns merit increased attention, including China’s coercive technology transfer practices, range of impediments to effective IP enforcement, and widespread infringing activity—including trade secret theft, rampant online piracy, and counterfeit manufacturing.
- India also remains on the Priority Watch List this year for longstanding challenges in its IP framework and lack of sufficient measurable improvements, particularly with respect to patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and enforcement, as well as for new issues that have negatively affected U.S. right holders over the past year.
- USTR downgrades Canada from the Watch List to the Priority Watch List this year for failing to make progress on overcoming important IP enforcement challenges. Key concerns include poor border enforcement generally and, in particular, lack of customs authority to inspect or detain suspected counterfeit or pirated goods shipped through Canada, concerns about IP protections and procedures related to pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding the protection of geographical indications.
- USTR downgrades Colombia from the Watch List to the Priority Watch List for its longstanding failure to make meaningful progress in fulfilling obligations under the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, such as obligations to amend its copyright law. USTR is also announcing an Out-of-Cycle Review of Colombia to assess its progress in addressing these and other concerns.
- USTR also identified 24 trading partners on the Watch List: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. IP challenges in these countries also merit increased bilateral engagement in 2018-2019.
- USTR places Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the Watch List. For Saudi Arabia, there are concerns regarding recent deteriorations in IP protection for pharmaceutical products, in addition to outstanding concerns regarding IP enforcement and the continued use of unlicensed software by the government. For the UAE, the placement on the Watch List is in response to longstanding concerns about the sale and transshipment of counterfeit goods and the establishment of collecting management organizations, as well as recent policy changes that may not provide adequate and effective IP protection for pharmaceutical products.
- USTR closes the Out-of-Cycle Reviews (OCRs) for Kuwait without a change in status and Tajikistan with a downgrade to the Watch List. Kuwait has not yet brought its copyright regime in line with its international commitments and still needs to make necessary improvements to the regulations implementing its 2016 Copyright and Related Rights Law. Tajikistan failed to address unlicensed software use by government agencies during the OCR. USTR announced that it will initiate OCRs for Colombia, Kuwait, and Malaysia to promote engagement and progress on specific IP opportunities and challenges.
- USTR highlights engagement with trading partners to address concerns related to IP protection and enforcement and market access barriers with respect to pharmaceuticals and medical devices so that trading partners contribute their fair share to research and development of new treatments and cures. For a fact sheet on USTR engagement on pharmaceutical and medical device issues, click here.
To read the 2018 Special 301 Report, click here.