U.S. Calls Level of China Copyright Theft 'Unacceptable'

Annual trade report also claims China maintains market access barriers that can discourage the introduction into its market of legitimate foreign products that rely on IPR.

The U.S. government said Friday that the level of theft of copyrights and patents in China "remains unacceptable" and kept Beijing on a "priority watch list" for intellectual property protection.

An annual report by the U.S. Trade Representative's office (USTR) said that China's enforcement regime "remains largely ineffective and non-deterrent" and that U.S. copyright industries ranging from software and movies to publishing to footwear "report severe losses due to piracy in China.

China will remain on the "priority watch list" in 2010 and will remain subject to monitoring by USTR.

The report said China's enforcement of intellectual property and implementation of a global agreement on the issue under the World Trade Organization "remain top priorities for the United States."

"The United States is heartened by many positive steps the Chinese government took in 2009 with respect to these issues," USTR said. "However, the overall level of IPR [intellectual property rights] theft in China remains unacceptable," it added. "Exacerbating its enforcement difficulties, China maintains market access barriers, such as import restrictions and restrictions on wholesale and retail distribution, which can discourage and delay the introduction into China's market of a number of legitimate foreign products that rely on IPR."

The United States challenged certain restrictions at the World Trade Organization in 2007.

USTR said the share of seizures pirated goods by U.S. border officials was 79% in 2009, a small decrease from 81% in 2008.

The report said China "should significantly increase criminal prosecutions and other enforcement actions against Internet-based piracy and counterfeiting operations through a sustained national effort backed by appropriate resources."

The report said Washington is also "deeply troubled by the development of policies that may unfairly disadvantage U.S. rights holders by promoting 'indigenous innovation.'"

"Intellectual property theft in overseas markets is an export killer for American businesses and a job killer for American workers here at home," said Trade Representative Ron Kirk in releasing the annual Special 301 report on enforcement of intellectual property rights.

He said this year's figures "highlight several successes in the fight against intellectual property theft. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have taken significant steps to clamp down on piracy and counterfeiting and will be removed from the watch list."

The priority watch list, noting countries that fail to adequately protect intellectual property, included China, Russia, Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela.

Twenty-nine other countries are on the lower-level watch list.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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