WASHINGTON - United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick today announced the outcome of "out-of-cycle" reviews for the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property protection in the Bahamas and Slovenia. The Bahamas has been placed on the Watch List for its failure to improve its laws protecting copyrighted material. Slovenia's commitment to abide by its obligations for the protection of confidential test data has kept it off the Watch List.
"The Administration will continue to pursue the aggressive enforcement of intellectual property rights and today's actions reflect that commitment," stated Zoellick. "The pirating of U.S. intellectual property robs Americans and hurts those countries that need strong IP protection to promote investment, innovation, and technology in the marketplace."
In addition to an annual review by the United States on global intellectual property protection, "out-of-cycle" reviews are conducted when certain countries require further monitoring. Under a section of U.S. trade law called "Special 301," placement on the Watch List (WL) or Priority Watch List (PWL) indicates that a country does not provide an adequate level of protection or enforcement of intellectual property rights or market access for persons relying on intellectual property.
Countries placed on the Priority Watch List are the focus of increased bilateral attention concerning the problem area or practice. Countries pursuing the most onerous or egregious policies that have the greatest adverse impact on U.S. rights or products are designated as Priority Foreign Countries (PFC). PFC=s are subject to accelerated investigations and possible sanctions.
The Bahamas is placed on the Watch List.
In September 2000, the Bahamian government made a commitment to improve intellectual property protection by amending certain objectionable provisions in its copyright law. The U.S. Government is disappointed that the Government of the Bahamas has not yet enacted this legislation and is placing the Bahamas on the Watch List to express our concern over the issue.
The key concern remains the existence of provisions in the Bahamian law allowing for compulsory licensing to Bahamian cable operators of retransmission of premium cable television programming. Inadequate remuneration for compulsory licensing of free-over-the-air broadcasts has been a related concern (particularly with respect to hotels and other commercial enterprises). We urge the Bahamian Government to swiftly enact the necessary amendments to its copyright law. At the same time, we continue to encourage U.S. copyright owners and operators of premium cable services to enter into good faith negotiations with licensed Bahamian cable companies to provide voluntary licensing on commercial terms for the cable transmission of copyrighted works in the Bahamas.
Slovenia is not placed on the Watch List.
The Slovenian Parliament's recent decision to restore protection for confidential test data submitted to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products reflects Slovenia's commitment to abide by its international obligations. The U.S. government is concerned about recent reports that local companies are taking advantage of the period before the implementation of these amendments to seek marketing approval for their generic (or pirated) versions of U.S. patented pharmaceuticals. However, we have received assurances from the Government of Slovenia that no such approvals would be granted. We will continue to monitor the situation in Slovenia to ensure that the data submitted for marketing approval by U.S. pharmaceutical firms is protected from unfair commercial use.
Despite a generally good patent regime, Slovenia in 2000 eliminated the protection of confidential test data submitted by pharmaceutical companies for marketing approval, in contradiction of Article 39.3 of the WTO TRIPS Agreement (Trade Related Intellectual Property). Slovenia had previously provided this protection, but the 2000 legislation passed by its Parliament suspended it until December 2002. On January 18, 2002, the Slovenian Parliament enacted amendments to the Pharmaceuticals Act which restored this protection.
The Kyrgyz Republic and Georgia were also both reviewed. At this time they will not be placed on any Special 301 lists. However, the U.S. government is concerned with key gaps in the legal regimes of both countries that must be corrected to ensure the effective enforcement of intellectual property rights, such as the lack of ex officio authority (the authority to undertake action without a right holder's complaint) for customs and criminal authorities, as well as the lack of civil ex parte search and seizure procedures conducted without notice to the alleged infringers. We will continue monitoring the situation in these countries to ensure that these shortcomings do not adversely affect U.S. rightsholders.