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USTR Releases Annual Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights

Washington, D.C. – The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has released its annual “Special 301” Report on the adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR).  Significant elements of the 2014 Special 301 Report include the following:

  • USTR highlights growing concerns with respect to the environment for IPR protection and enforcement in India and other markets. 
  • The Report expresses ongoing, serious concerns about the protection and enforcement of trade secrets with respect to China, and emerging concerns in other markets.
  • USTR removes Italy and the Philippines from the Watch List in recognition of their IPR-related accomplishments, and as an indication of support for their commitment to continued progress.
  • The Report highlights music licensing and cable broadcasting concerns throughout the Caribbean that adversely affect U.S. copyright holders, including creators of original pay television programming, songwriters, and other independent artists.
  • USTR announces that it will conduct Out-of-Cycle reviews to promote engagement and progress on IPR challenges identified in this year’s reviews of India, Kuwait, Paraguay and Spain.

“The United States is an innovation economy.  We are the global leader in research and development.  We have given rise to some of the most creative, inventive and entrepreneurial businesses in the world, contributing significantly to advances in global health, the development of the digital economy and the education and entertainment of billions of people worldwide.  More than 30 million Americans owe their jobs directly to these and other innovative industries.  USTR is fully committed to unlocking opportunity for those Americans to share their inventions and creations with people all over the world without their work being infringed or misappropriated,” said Ambassador Michael Froman. 

“Release of the 2014 Special 301 Report marks 25 years since USTR published the first Special 301 ‘Fact Sheet.’  In that time, we have achieved dramatic changes in the international intellectual property landscape.  The Obama Administration is committed to meaningful and sustained engagement with trading partners -- from China to India to Canada -- with the goal of resolving intellectual property-related concerns so that Americans and American firms can compete on a level playing field in those markets.”

“I would like to congratulate the Governments of Italy and the Philippines on their removal from the Watch List.  Both were named in the first Special 301 Fact Sheet and in many annual reports since, but today we acknowledge their accomplishments and encourage them to continue their progress,” Ambassador Froman concluded.  “Likewise, we congratulate Israel on its removal from the Watch List earlier this year.”

BACKGROUND  

The “Special 301” Report is an annual review of the global state of IPR protection and enforcement.  USTR conducts this review pursuant to Section 182 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 and the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

USTR reviewed 82 trading partners for this year’s Special 301 Report, and placed 37 of them on the Priority Watch List or Watch List.   

In this year’s report, trading partners on the Priority Watch List present the most significant concerns regarding insufficient IPR protection or enforcement, or otherwise limited market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection.  Ten countries — Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela — are on the Priority Watch List.  These countries will be the subject of particularly intense bilateral engagement during the coming year.   

Twenty-seven trading partners are on the Watch List, also meriting bilateral attention to address underlying IPR problems:  Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.   

USTR also announces that it will launch several Out-of-Cycle Reviews to enhance engagement with trading partners and encourage progress on IPR issues of concern.  USTR will conduct OCRs of Priority Watch List country India and Watch List countries Kuwait and Paraguay.  Details appear in Section II of the Report.  Although Spain is not listed in the Report, USTR announces the intention to continue an OCR, which was initiated in 2013, to monitor anticipated improvements in Spain’s enforcement regime.  USTR may conduct additional OCRs of other trading partners as circumstances warrant, or as requested by the trading partner. 

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

USTR continued its enhanced approach to public engagement activities in this year’s Special 301 process.  USTR requested written submissions from the public through a notice published in the Federal Register on January 3, 2014.  In addition, on February 24, 2014, USTR conducted a public hearing that invited interested persons to testify before the interagency Special 301 subcommittee about issues relevant to the review.  The hearing featured testimony from witnesses representing foreign governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations.  For the first time, USTR recorded the testimony at the Special 301 hearing, and also offered a two-week post-hearing comment period during which hearing participants and interested parties could submit additional information in support of, or in response to, hearing testimony.  The 2014 Federal Register notice — and post-hearing comment period — drew submissions from over 100 interested parties, including 21 trading partners.  The submissions that USTR received are available to the public online at www.regulations.gov, docket number USTR-2013-0040.  The public can access both the video and transcript of the hearing at www.ustr.gov