The Office of the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) released its 2016 “Special 301” Report on Wednesday, detailing how intellectual property is being protected – or better yet, not protected – on a worldwide basis. This yearly report is the result of a review of the state of intellectual property rights protection and enforcement of the U.S.'s trading partners around world, and it is especially relevant in fashion law because it specifies which countries raise concerns due to their intellectual property practices. All the usual suspects regularly make the list, such as China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, for online piracy, counterfeiting, ineffective systems for protecting against unfair commercial use of U.S. IP rights, etc.
China, Russia and India are among 11 countries targeted by the Obama administration for leaving American producers of music, movies and other copyrighted material open to rampant piracy. The U.S. is placing the 11 countries on a "priority watch list" that subjects them to extra scrutiny and could lead to sanctions if the U.S. brings cases to the World Trade Organization.Also on the list again are Algeria, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Kuwait, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Not surprisingly, the 2016 report keeps China on its Priority Watch List of U.S. trading partners that have problems protecting intellectual property, enforcing its theft or the market access given to entities relying on intellectual property. The report highlights concerns about China stealing trade secrets, “rampant” online piracy and counterfeiting, ongoing high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit goods, while localization requirements have limited market access for intellectual property developed in or transferred to China.
India also reappears on the list for failing to substantially improvements to its legal framework. The report adds Switzerland to the list because copyright holders have effectively been barred from enforcing their rights against online infringers. The report adds that the country has become a popular host for infringing websites.
“Intellectual property is a critical source of economic growth and high-quality jobs for the United States, and it is more important than ever to prevent foreign governments and competitors from ripping off United States innovators who are trying to support high-paying jobs by exporting their goods and services to consumers around the world,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in a statement.