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Weekly Trade Spotlight: Protecting American Innovation

July is technology month and this week’s trade spotlight looks at USTR’s protection of American innovation through intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement in the three pending trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.

Through trade agreements, such as the three pending pacts with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, USTR stresses to other nations the importance of facilitating the development, commercialization, and marketing of innovative technology, including through the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Such provisions within trade agreements not only protect U.S. businesses, authors, and creators from intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting crimes, but also provide ways for American innovators to protect their intellectual property rights in foreign markets. USTR is continually looking to create a positive environment for American entrepreneurs and their innovations in the global market.

U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement:

The intellectual property rights chapter of the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement promotes American innovation and ingenuity through the protection of intellectual property rights, including for copyrighted works, patents and regulated products, and trademarks. The chapter enforces these rights through the inclusion of penalties for counterfeiting and piracy. The agreement includes provisions to prohibit the unauthorized circumvention of technical measures designed to prevent piracy and unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material via the internet. Under the agreement, South Korea will enact more stringent enforcement policies such as the authorization to seize, forfeit, and destroy pirated or counterfeited goods and equipment used to produce them. The pact includes permission for customs officials and prosecutors to bring intellectual property rights enforcement action against violators without waiting for a complaint from the rights holder. It ensures that both countries will protect patents and data that are submitted to governments for review and approval. Trademark protection is extended to sound, scent, and certification marks. A system to resolve disputes over domain names is required to prevent cyber squatting in respect to high-value domain names.

U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement:

Like the U.S.-South Korea agreement, the Panama trade agreement provides for several forms of intellectual property rights protection that are important in the digital environment. Under the terms of the Agreement, Panama will develop strong anti-circumvention provisions to prohibit tampering with technologies designed to prevent piracy and unauthorized access to songs, movies, or other work over the Internet. Panama will also criminalize the unauthorized receipt or distribution of encrypted satellite signals, thus preventing piracy of satellite television programming. Under the Agreement, Panama will extend protection for copyrighted works consistent with U.S. law and emerging international standards.

U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement:

Under the U.S.-Colombia agreement, American innovations are protected through a variety of intellectual property rights regulations. Within a year of this pact’s entry into force, Colombia is expected to instate an electronic system for applying, registering, and maintaining trademarks. To address trademark cyber-piracy, both the U.S. and Colombia must include a dispute resolution procedure through each nation’s domain name management system. The agreement also provides enhancements of the rights of copyright owners over digital copies of their works, and each country must also provide a right of communication to the public, including the exclusive right to authorize making protected works available online. The agreement recognizes obligations with respect to the liability of Internet service providers for copyright infringements that may take place over their networks. It recognizes and protects satellite signals and the information that travels via those signals. Strong intellectual property enforcement policies and procedures are put in place through the trade agreement. For example, law enforcement agencies in both nations are given authority to seize suspected pirated goods and the equipment used to produce them.

Americans know that the world of technology is always evolving. USTR’s intellectual property rights policies are formed to keep pace and evolve along with American innovation. USTR recognizes the importance of intellectual property and innovation to the future of the U.S. economy, and uses a wide range of trade tools to promote strong IPR laws and effective enforcement worldwide.