On April 25th, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), issued the 2019 Special 301 Report. In a press release, the USTR stated that "over the coming weeks, USTR will review the developments against the benchmarks established in the Special 301 action plans for countries that have been on the Priority Watch List for multiple years," and that for those countries found not to have addressed the concerns expressed by and attendant to placement on these lists, "USTR will take appropriate actions, such as enforcement actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act or pursuant to World Trade Organization or other trade agreement dispute settlement procedures, necessary to combat unfair trade practices and to ensure that trading partners follow through with their international commitments."
According to the Executive Summary of the Report, "[a] top trade priority for the Administration is to use all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open their markets to U.S. exports of goods and services, and provide adequate and effective protection and enforcement of U.S. intellectual property (IP) rights." In tune with the more combative rhetoric on trade adopted by the Trump Administration, the Summary goes on to add that:
This Report provides an opportunity to call out foreign countries and expose the laws, policies, and practices that fail to provide adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement for U.S. inventors, creators, brands, manufacturers, and service providers. The identification of the countries and IP-related market access barriers in the Report and of steps necessary to address those barriers are a critical component of the Administration's aggressive efforts to defend Americans from harmful IP-related trade barriers.
The Report cites four countries for particular consideration upon being placed on the Priority Watch List. Regarding China, the Report characterizes placement on the list because in the Administration's view China needs "fundamental structural changes to strengthen IP protection and enforcement, including as to trade secret theft, online piracy and counterfeiting, the high-volume manufacture and export of counterfeit goods, and impediments to pharmaceutical innovation." India is cited for "lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its IP framework on long-standing and new challenges that have negatively affected U.S. right holders over the past year," which include ones that "make it difficult for innovators to receive and maintain patents in India, particularly for pharmaceuticals, insufficient enforcement actions, copyright policies that do not properly incentivize the creation and commercialization of content, and an outdated and insufficient trade secrets legal framework." Saudi Arabia was moved from the Watch List to the Priority Watch List this year, according to the Report, "for failing to address longstanding IP concerns and further deteriorating IP protection and enforcement within its borders" and specifically cites, "lack of IP protection for innovative pharmaceutical products, including the lack of adequate and effective protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval" and "rampant satellite and online piracy made available by illicit pirate service BeoutQ." The Report highlights the deficiencies of Indonesia as a trading partner less particularly, merely citing a "reported lack of adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement" (presumably from comments received from particular constituencies who have done the "reporting" to the Administration).
The Report is promulgated 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 (enacted in 1994). The Trade Representative is required under the Act to "identify those countries that deny adequate and effective protection for IPR or deny fair and equitable market access for persons that rely on intellectual property protection." The Trade Representative has implemented these provisions by creating a "Priority Watch List" and "Watch List." Placing a country on the Priority Watch List or Watch List is used to indicate that the country exhibits "particular problems . . . with respect to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property." These watch lists are reserved for countries having "the most onerous or egregious acts, policies, or practices and whose acts, policies, or practices have the greatest adverse impact (actual or potential) on the relevant U.S. products."
The USTR reviewed "more than 100" of this country's trading partners and identified eleven countries on a "Priority Watch List" (increased by one from last year) and another 25 countries on the "Watch List" (also increasing by one from last year), all relating to deficiencies in intellectual property protection in these countries. The Priority Watch List in the 2019 Report includes Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Venezuela, and removes Canada and Thailand from the list cited in the 2018 Report. Countries on this list "present the most significant concerns this year regarding insufficient IP protection or enforcement or actions that otherwise limited market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection." On the Watch List this year are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Canada, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates were added, and Saudi Arabia was moved to the Priority Watch List this year.
The Report also notes the USTR's continued efforts to enhance public engagement. In addition to written comments (from 73 interested parties, including 25 trading partner governments), there was a public hearing on February 27, 2019 that heard testimony from "representatives of foreign governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations" (where the comments and a transcript and video of the hearing are available on the USTR website).
The Report states that "[i]n virtually all countries identified in this Report, IP enforcement is lacking," due to, inter alia, "[in]adequate or effective border enforcement against counterfeit and pirated goods" (Brazil, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Paraguay, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, and Vietnam), and that in such countries "customs officials lack authority to take ex officio action to seize and destroy such goods at the border or to take such action for goods in-transit."
Particularly mentioned are copyright issues, including piracy (Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Greece, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Ukraine, "and elsewhere") and unlicensed government use of copyrighted software (Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam).
The Report also cites "restrictive patentability criteria" (Argentina, India, and Indonesia) and "a lack of effective protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products" (Argentina, China, India, and Saudi Arabia).
As it did last year, the Report also chides India and China for inadequate trade secret protection, which puts "U.S. trade secrets at unnecessary risk" and "negative market access effects" from the European Union's geographical indications (GIs) protections.
Somewhat paradoxically, this portion of the Report ends by stating that "the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative looks forward to working closely with the trading partners identified in this year's Report to address these and other priority concerns."
Results of 2018 "Out of Cycle" reviews discussed in the Report (which "provide an opportunity to address and remedy such issues through heightened engagement and cooperation with trading partners and other stakeholders") include Columbia, which "made meaningful progress in enacting copyright reform legislation to meet CTPA obligations and is actively engaging stakeholders on Internet service provider (ISP) liability to address another CTPA commitment." Kuwait did not fare so well, the USTR determining that while this country has "made some progress," the issue that prompted the review "had not been resolved." For Malaysia, despite "numerous consultations with a view to resolving outstanding issues," the USTR has decided to extend review in 2019, in order to "consider the extent to which Malaysia is providing adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement, including with respect to patents."
The Report contains two Sections (on "Developments in Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Enforcement" and "Country Reports") and two Annexes on particular issues (the statutory bases of the Report, and government technical assistance and capacity building efforts). In Section I, the Report reiterates its raison d'etre, that:
Intellectual property (IP) infringement, including patent infringement, trademark counterfeiting, copyright piracy, and trade secret theft, causes significant financial losses for right holders and legitimate businesses around the world. IP infringement undermines U.S. competitive advantages in innovation and creativity, to the detriment of American businesses and workers. In its most pernicious forms, IP infringement endangers the public, such as through exposure to health and safety risks from counterfeit products such as semiconductors, automobile parts, apparel, footwear, toys, and medicines. In addition, trade in counterfeit and pirated products often fuels cross-border organized criminal networks and hinders sustainable economic development in many countries. Fostering innovation and creativity is essential to U.S. economic growth, competitiveness, and the estimated 45 million American jobs that directly or indirectly rely on IP-intensive industries. USTR continues to work to protect American innovation and creativity in foreign markets employing all the tools of U.S. trade policy, including the annual Special 301 Report.
It then reviews "initiatives for strengthen IP protection and enforcement," which includes "examples of initiatives to strengthen IP protection and enforcement; illustrative best practices demonstrated by the United States and our trading partners; [and] U.S.-led initiatives in multilateral organizations; and bilateral and regional developments." It also highlights areas of continued concern, including "counterfeits, online piracy, forced technology transfer, innovative pharmaceutical products and medical devices, and geographical indications (GIs)." As in earlier years, it mentions how important IP protection is to innovations in the environmental sector. Finally, Section I includes a discussion relating to "the importance of full implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and developments on the U.S. use of WTO dispute settlement procedures to resolve IP concerns."
In a section entitled "IP Protection and Enforcement and Related Market Access Challenges," the Report discusses innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, medical devices and market access concerns. In this regard, the Report states that "USTR has been engaging with trading partners to ensure that U.S. owners of IP have a full and fair opportunity to use and profit from their IP, including by promoting transparent and fair pricing and reimbursement systems." These efforts have included "ensur[ing] robust IP systems; reduc[ing] market access barriers to pharmaceutical products and medical devices, including measures that discriminate against U.S. companies, are not adequately transparent, or do not offer sufficient opportunity for meaningful stakeholder engagement; and has pressed trading partners to appropriately recognize the value of innovative medicines and medical devices so that trading partners contribute their fair share to research and development of new treatments and cures" (echoing the "fair share" mantra recited by the President in stump speeches and tweets). The Report calls out in this regard the following efforts in particular countries:
• Canada and Mexico: in the context of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), secured strong IP provisions in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), including provisions that "ensure that national-level government processes for the listing and reimbursement of pharmaceutical products and medical devices are transparent, provide procedural fairness, are nondiscriminatory, and provide full market access for U.S. products";
• Korea: as part of renegotiating the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), obtained a commitment to "amend its Premium Pricing Policy for Global Innovative Drugs" to "ensure fair and non-discriminatory treatment of pharmaceutical products";
• Japan: engaged "to ensure transparency and fairness and address other concerns with respect to pharmaceutical and medical devices pricing and reimbursement policies";
• China: "pressed" the Chinese on "a range of issues affecting the pharmaceutical sector, including on the need to implement an effective mechanism for the early resolution of potential patent disputes; provide effective protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products; and provide a reliable and effective means of extending the patent term to compensate for the marketing approval review period and for patent office delays";
• India: engaged to secure "meaningful IP reforms on longstanding issues," which include patentability and compulsory licensing criteria, protection against unfair commercial use and unauthorized disclosure of test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products;
• Indonesia: "pressed" to resolve concerns regarding Indonesian patent law, including patentability criteria, compulsory licensing, and requirements for local manufacturing and use;
• Argentina: "raised concerns" regarding (somewhat ironically) the scope of patentable subject matter, protection against unfair commercial use and, like in many emerging countries, unauthorized disclosure of "undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products";
• Saudi Arabia: "engaged" (in view of transfer to the Priority Watch List, apparently somewhat unsuccessfully) regarding patent enforcement and protections against unfair commercial use, and also unauthorized disclosure of "undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products"; and
• United Arab Emirates (UAE): sought (but did not receive?) confirmation that UAE will provide protection for pharmaceuticals through, inter alia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) patent system.
Compulsory licensing again poses particular concerns with regard to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, according to the Report, because "[s]uch actions can undermine a patent holder's IP, reduce incentives to invest in research and development for new treatments and cures, unfairly shift the burden for funding such research and development to American patients and those in other markets that properly respect IP, and discourage the introduction of important new medicines into affected markets." Even when compulsory licenses are justified they should be used in only "extremely limited circumstances" and only after attempting to negotiate with the rights holder; the Report cited these concerns particularly with Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.
More generally, the Report points to "non-transparent" and discriminatory practices and "unreasonable regulatory delay" as being of concern to the USTR and administration. In contrast, national systems that accelerate approval based on regulatory in other countries are praised in the Report.
The Report notes that stakeholders from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have identified industries that have expressed concerns regarding the policies of several trading partners, including Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Turkey with regard to "issues related to pharmaceutical innovation and market access," citing specific examples falling within these general categories for each country.
The Report next turns to technology transfer issues, including innovation by indigenous peoples and "localization." In this portion of the Report, compulsory technology transfer is emphasized as causing difficulties for American innovators. The Report identifies the anti-innovation cycle of imposing such measures to incentivize local innovation, which leads to create market entry barriers and thus discourages foreign (i.e., U.S.) investment, which not only hurts domestic industry in those countries but also can produce "non-market distortions" which in turn can lead to "suboptimal outcomes." The Report sets forth a litany of these practices, including requirements for technology transfer as the price for regulatory or other governmental approval; permitting state-owned enterprises to seek "non-commercial terms" for IP licensing or otherwise; providing unfair competitive advantage to local industry (if only passively by permitting U.S. IP-rights infringement); permitting cyber-intrusions; giving preference to local products and services dependent on indigenous IP; "[m]anipulating" processes of standards to prefer local concerns; and conditioning regulatory approval or other governmental approvals on disclosure of confidential business information and then "failing to protect such information appropriately." China, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey are particularly cited for these concerns.
Trade secret protection, or lack of it, is also a concern discussed in the Report. It cites "growing need for trading partners to provide effective protection and enforcement of trade secrets" in "a wide variety of industry sectors, including 'ICT' [information and communications technologies], services, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, environmental technologies, and other manufacturing" areas. The Report cites "various sources, including the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive" for reporting these concerns, particularly with regard to China. Trade secret theft can arise in "a variety of circumstances," including permitting (or not stopping) departing employees from taking with them trade secret information-containing electronic storage devices, failed joint ventures, cyber intrusion and computer hacking, misuse of trade secrets disclosed to government agencies as part of a regulatory approval process. The Report notes particular difficulties in China and India regarding "effective remedies," or that (in some countries) government regulations or policies require disclosure of trade secrets such as software source code. While asserting that "[t]he United States uses all trade tools available to ensure that its trading partners provide robust protection for trade secrets and enforce trade secrets laws," the Report cites on a positive note efforts by the European Union and Taiwan to strengthen their trade secret regimes. The USTR also "strongly supports" the work of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)'s work on trade secret protection.
The Report next addresses geographical indications (GIs) issues, saying that the U.S. "is working intensively through bilateral and multilateral channels" to improve U.S. access to a variety of goods having geographic specificity, particularly with regard to the European Union. The EU GI "agenda remains highly concerning, because it significantly undermines the scope of trademarks and other IP rights held by U.S. producers and imposes barriers on market access for American-made goods that rely on the use of common names, such as parmesan or feta." As a result, according to the Report, there are concerns "regarding the extent to which it impairs the scope of trademark protection," which (answering its own question) the Report states "undermines trademark protection and may result in consumer confusion to the extent that it permits the registration of GIs that are confusingly similar with prior trademarks." The Report exemplifies these concerns regarding GI protection granted by the EU for a cheese called danbo, which the USTR states is made in many other countries but use of this name is restricted in the EU to particular (European) geographic source. The Report asserts without characterization that the EU "pressures trading partners to prevent all producers, other than in certain EU regions, from using certain product names" (all of which relate to cheese, curiously), with as a consequence "American producers and traders either are effectively blocked from those markets or must adopt burdensome workarounds" (illustrated, unfortunately for the strength of the argument, by appending "-like" to the particular cheese name). Part of the reason for U.S. concern is frankly admitted to be that "[t]he United States runs a significant deficit in food and agricultural trade with the EU," comparing $1 billion in cheese exports from the EU to the U.S. with $5 million in imports into the EU from the U.S. More worrisome is the EU's extension of GI designations into other goods, including "non-agricultural products, including apparel, ceramics, glass, handicrafts, manufactured goods, minerals, salts, stones, and textiles." Despite urging from the U.S., the EU amended its Common Agricultural Policy to pass much of the control over GIs to "interested EU Member States" (i.e., those in the protected geographical location) with an attendant "sharp" reduction in the period available to oppose a GI designation. The Report also notes that the EU is pursuing its GI agenda in "multilateral and plurilateral bodies," including "expanding the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration to include GIs, thereby enshrining several detrimental aspects of EU law in that Agreement." The Report characterizes these efforts as a "break with the long-standing WIPO practice of consensus-based decision-making" and consequently voted to "deny the United States and 160 other WIPO countries meaningful participation rights in the negotiations."
The Report also notes that the U.S. response is to address the issue in so-called "free trade" agreements and bilateral agreements with other nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Paraguay, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Vietnam.
The Report next turns to online and broadcast piracy of copyrighted works, citing the "increased availability of broadband Internet connections around the world" as being a "boon" to the U.S economy and foreign trade. But while advances in technology have enabled U.S. creative producers to better distribute copyrighted materials, it has also made the Internet "an extremely efficient vehicle for disseminating infringing content, thus competing unfairly with legitimate e-commerce and distribution services that copyright holders and online platforms use to deliver licensed content." A variety of forms of this issue are discussed in the Report, which names China, India, Indonesia Mexico, Peru, Ukraine, and Vietnam for optical piracy; Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and Switzerland for "stream-ripping" (which is "the unauthorized converting of a file from a licensed streaming site into an unauthorized copy" and is now a "dominant" method for music piracy); and Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, the UAE, and Vietnam for the use of illicit streaming devices. Also mentioned (without attribution to any particular country) is illegal Internet Protocol Television and signal theft by cable operators as significant sources of copyright. Illicit camcording continues to be a particular concern in the Report, which asserts that "online piracy that damage legitimate trade are found in virtually every country listed in the Special 301 Report and include: the unauthorized retransmission of live sports programming online; the unauthorized cloning of cloud-based entertainment software, through reverse engineering or hacking, onto servers that allow users to play pirated content online, including pirated online games; and online distribution of software and devices that allow for the circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs), including game copiers and mod chips that allow users to play pirated games on physical consoles."
The final extensive discussion in the Report regards border control and criminal enforcement against counterfeiting. Counterfeit goods (including "semiconductors and other electronics, chemicals, automotive and aircraft parts, medicines, food and beverages, household consumer products, personal care products, apparel and footwear, toys, and sporting goods") "make their way from China" and other countries, particularly those having an "ineffective or inadequate IP enforcement system." Citing a March 2019 OECD study entitled "Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods," the cost of such counterfeiting was $509 billion in 2016, which is equivalent to 3.3% of 2016 total global trade n(with China accounting for 57%, $239 billion, of that trade). The Report states that such counterfeit goods harm "consumers, legitimate producers, and governments," particularly with regard to medicines, automotive and airplane parts, and food and beverages" because the counterfeit products do not meet the "rigorous good manufacturing practices used for legitimate products." The Report enunciates difficulties that arise due to the use of legitimate sources of trade ("legitimate express mail, international courier, and postal services") for transporting counterfeit goods in small consignments or shop unmarked goods to which a counterfeit trademark are affixed at their final destination. These practices inhibit trademark enforcement efforts, particularly in countries that require a counterfeit to be "completed" at the time of importation and inspection at national borders. The Report states that the U.S. continues to "urge" its trading partners to "undertake more effective criminal and border enforcement against the manufacture, import, export, transit, and distribution of counterfeit goods" and states that the Office engages trading partners bilaterally, through trade agreement and international organizations on this issue. Another problem is the reentry into channels of commerce of counterfeit goods after they have been seized at national borders and transshipment through 'free trade zones"; the Report uses the UAE, particularly Dubai, as an example of this practice that accounted for $16 billion in counterfeit goods in 2016. Particular instances of trade in counterfeit medicines and global patterns of such drugs (e.g., India being a major supplier of counterfeit drugs to African countries) are also discussed in the Report.
Copyright administration and royalty payments, particularly with regard to collective management organizations (BMI, ASCAP) are next discussed, with concern arising that "CMO systems in several countries are reportedly flawed or nonoperational," citing India, the UAE, and Ukraine as examples.
Trademarks and impediments to obtaining and enforcing them in some countries make up the next topic in the Report, with Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines, having "slow" opposition proceedings and Russia and Panama having no administrative opposition proceedings. Even registering (i.e., making a record of) trademarks is problematic in some countries, with "unnecessary administrative and financial burdens" imposed on owners and there being unnecessary difficulties in maintaining and enforcing trademarks (albeit without naming any countries where these and other difficulties contained in the Report have arisen). There are also issues with cybersquatting and particularly with country code top-level domain names (ccTLDs) for U.S. rights holders. The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam are named for unlicensed use of software, and the Report cites a commercial value for such illicit use of software at $46 billion worldwide.
The Report sets forth efforts related to initiatives for improving IP protection resulting in a country not being put on the Watch List (Tajikistan), or other significant steps (in Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Greece, India, the Philippines, and Taiwan). Also noted is participation by 75 member states in the 1991 Act of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention (UPOV 91), which member states to "grant IP protection to breeders of new plant varieties, known as breeder's rights." The Report asserts that "[a]n effective plant variety protection system incentivizes plant-breeding activities, which leads to increased numbers of new plant varieties with improved characteristics such as high-yield, tolerance to adverse environmental conditions, and better food quality." Also noted are the 100 parties to each of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty and the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which have "raised the standard of copyright protection around the world, particularly with regard to online delivery of copyrighted content."
Section I of the Report also has a section of "Illustrative Best IP Practices by [U.S.] Trading Partners, which expressly recites Thailand and India for "[c]ooperation and coordination among national government agencies involved in IP issues"; Brazil, Malaysia, and Jamaica for "[s]pecialized IP enforcement units"; India, Paraguay, the Philippines, Spain, and Taiwan for "IP awareness and educational campaigns"; and several governments (Mexico, Romania, Singapore) for active participation of government officials in technical assistance and capacity building."
The Report discusses multilateral (WTO) and regional (APEC) and bilateral (TIFA) agreements and specific instances where such agreements are being pursued in furtherance of U.S. trade objectives.
Section I of the Report ends by mentioning the role of intellectual property and the environment and intellectual property and health as areas of concern raised by stakeholders in their comments. The Report contains an affirmation of the provisions regarding IP and public health set forth in the Doha Declaration and states that "[t]he United States is firmly of the view that international obligations such as those in the TRIPS Agreement have sufficient flexibility to allow trading partners to address the serious public health problems that they may face." And the final portion of this section of the Report discusses efforts at dispute resolution of IP matters under the GATT/TRIPS provisions as they are implemented by the WTO.
Finally, the last portion of Section I of the Report relates to dispute settlement and enforcement. It states that while the U.S. believes that "[t]he most efficient and preferred manner of resolving concerns is through bilateral dialogue," when that doesn't work "the United States will use enforcement tools including those provided under U.S. law, the WTO and other dispute settlement procedures, as appropriate." Specifically cited is the August 14, 2017 Presidential Memorandum regarding an investigation by the USTR of "laws, policies, practices, or actions of the government of China that may be unreasonable or discriminatory and that may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development" (82 FR 39007) and its subsequent institution on August 18, 2017. The Report notes that the investigation reported, in March 22, 2018, that "the investigation supports findings that acts, policies, and practices of the China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation covered in the investigation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce" and the subsequent actions of the Administration to impose tariffs on Chinese goods and WTO involvement in "market access and distribution for imported publications, movies, music, and audio-visual home entertainment products, such as DVDs and Blu-ray discs (AVHE products)." Other enforcement actions, mostly of historical significance, are also discussed.
Section II of the Report is a detailed, country-by-country discussion for each country on the Priority Watch List and the Watch List, relating to the activities (or lack thereof) of each country that results in placement of that country on these lists.
As it has for the past several years (and across otherwise very different Administrations), the U.S. Trade Representative Special 301 Report provides insights into both the concerns of U.S. IP rights holders and the Administration's intentions to work with, cajole, coerce, or threaten other countries to increase protection for IP rights of U.S. IP rights holders. For anyone paying adequate attention to these Reports year-to-year, the complaints, and even the language enunciating these complaints, remains dispiritingly the same, suggesting that despite pronouncements of small victories efforts to reduce unfair trade practices globally have fallen far short. Nevertheless, as with last year's Report, the tone and tenor of this Report is robustly assertive regarding IP rights and America's intention to negotiate international agreements and confront its trading partners in ways that protect American innovation and commercial interests first and foremost regardless of consequences.
For additional information regarding this and other related topics, please see:
• "U.S. Trade Representative Releases 2018 Special 301 Report," April 29, 2018
• "U.S. Trade Representative Issues 2017 Special 301 Report," May 4, 2017
• "U.S. Trade Representative Issues 2016 Special 301 Report," May 19, 2016
• "U.S. Trade Representative Issues 2015 Special 301 Report," April 30, 2015
• "U.S. Trade Representative Issues 2014 Special 301 Report," May 19, 2014
• "U.S. Trade Representative Issues 2013 Special 301 Report," May 30, 2013
• "U.S. Trade Representative Issues 2012 Special 301 Report," May 1, 2012
• "U.S. Trade Representative Releases Special 301 Report on Global IPR," May 4, 2011
• "U.S. Trade Representative Releases Special 301 Report on Global IPR," May 19, 2010
• "New Administration, Same Result: U.S. Trade Representative's Section 301 Report," May 6, 2009
• "Congressmen Criticize U.S. Trade Representative over Special 301 Report," July 1, 2008
• "U.S. Continues Efforts to Protect Patent Rights Abroad," April 29, 2008