Intellectual property rights protection and enforcement persist as global challenges for American businesses. That's a clear takeaway from the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) annual review of the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement. Forty-one of the 77 U.S. trading partners reviewed for the 2010 edition of the "Special 301" Report were placed on either Priority Watch or lower-level watch lists, meaning some sort of IPR problem exists.
The report's release elicited a quick reaction from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which called for legislative action to further protect U.S. intellectual property rights. "We believe that the process must be improved," stated Mark Esper, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center. "The chamber urges Congress to enact legislation to enhance the tools available to the administration to engage more effectively with countries that fail to respect and enforce the rights of American innovators and live up to their international IP obligations. This legislation should require an action plan for Priority Watch List countries that includes clear benchmarks to measure performance, and meaningful consequences for nations that fail to perform."
The Priority Watch List
Trading partners on the Priority Watch do not provide adequate levels of intellectual property rights protection or enforcement or market access for persons relying on IPR protection, according to the USTR. These countries will be subject to "particularly intense engagement" through bilateral discussion in 2010, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.
IPR concerns with respect to China remain paramount. "China's IPR enforcement regime remains largely ineffective and non-deterrent," notes the report. "The share of IPR-infringing product seizures at the U.S. border that were of Chinese origin was 79% in 2009, a small decrease from 81% in 2008."
Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative, made special note of China's "indigenous innovation" policies. "Procurement preferences and other measures favoring 'indigenous innovation' could severely restrict market access for American technology and products," he said. "Creating an environment that nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship is a worthy goal, but China must maintain a level playing field."
While noting that Russia has made progress in improving IPR protection and enforcement, the report pointed out the country has failed to meet its commitments to fighting optical disc and Internet piracy, among other lapses. "Also, counterfeiting of trademarked goods remains a problem."
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