On IP Protection, USTR Finds Fault With China, India … And Switzerland?

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) does not hesitate to add even its closest friends to its annual list of concerns about possible inadequate protection of US intellectual property rights. So this year, along with perennial listees China, India and dozens of others, vigorous IP-rights defender Switzerland makes an appearance. The annual Special 301 report was issued today, and in its press release this year, USTR also included its primary client in publishing the list – the rightsholder industry.

“USTR adds Switzerland to the Watch List this year,” the release says. “While Switzerland is generally a strong partner on IP issues, copyright holders have essentially been prevented from enforcing their rights against online infringers and Switzerland has become an increasingly popular host country for infringing websites.”

Other close partners on the list or facing further scrutiny include Canada, Chile, Colombia and Spain. And as an example of the breadth of the report, problems US rightsholders claim to have defending country-code internet domain names led USTR, in the report, to cite China, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The report also includes an extensive section on geographical indications, taking issue with the European Union system.

This year’s report also reflects the increasing inclusion of trade secrets in the context of intellectual property rights, despite significant differences in purpose. It singles out China and India for problems on trade secret protection.

[Update: some countries improved their position on the USTR list. For instance, Ecuador was moved from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List for its willingness to work with the US, despite some ongoing concerns such as counterfeiting and piracy. USTR also said it would seek clarification of Ecuador’s process for using compulsory licensing.]

The Special 301 report typically amounts to an IPR agenda for USTR engagement with trading partners for the coming year, though in rare cases it could extend to trade sanctions.

To download 77-page report, please click here.

Source: Intellectual Property WatchGAI