USTR Releases Annual Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights

“The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 Report on the adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). Fighting IPR theft in overseas markets is critical to the livelihoods of the estimated 18 million Americans who work in intellectual property-intensive industries. The Special 301 Report provides a means for the United States to promote the protection and enforcement of IPR. This year, for the first time, USTR has issued an open invitation to all trading partners listed in the report to cooperatively develop action plans to resolve IPR issues of concern.

“This year’s Special 301 Report comes with a call to action for our trading partners. We are ready to work intensively with you to stop intellectual property theft that threatens IP-related jobs in the United States and other countries,” said Ambassador Ron Kirk. “Today’s report is a springboard for ambitious and collaborative partnerships in the coming year to strengthen protection for the innovation and creativity that drive jobs and exports for the United States and our partners around the world.”

In the report, USTR announced that in 2011 it will conduct an out-of-cycle review of Italy to monitor progress on IPR protection and enforcement, in particular in the area of piracy over the Internet. Today’s report also recognizes important examples of progress made by several countries, including through the enactment of significant IPR legislation in Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, and Spain. However, no trading partners are being removed from the two main categories in the report, the Priority Watch List and the Watch List.

America’s two largest trading partners, Canada and China, remain on the Priority Watch List. The report notes the failure of Canadian efforts in 2010 to enact long-awaited copyright legislation and to strengthen border enforcement. It highlights ongoing concerns about the prevalence of piracy and counterfeiting in China, and China’s implementation of “indigenous innovation” and other industrial policies that discriminate against or otherwise disadvantage U.S. exports and U.S. investors. Russia remains on the Priority Watch List as well. While Russia has taken significant steps to improve IPR protection by enacting important legislation, the report urges Russia to take additional steps to address Internet piracy concerns and enforcement more generally.”