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New USTR Report Highlights Counterfeiting Concerns

Three things were evident in the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) latest intellectual property (IP) report: China remains a problem child, IPR protection and enforcement has deteriorated in a number of countries, and online copyright piracy is a growing problem.

The annual review of the state of intellectual property, also called the Special 301 Report, looks at trading partners’ IP practices and determines which should be named put on the Priority Watch List or the slightly less egregious Watch List.

“This annual report spells out the progress or lack of progress in the fight against counterfeits, and other forms of intellectual property theft,” American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) President and CEO Rick Helfenbein said. “Counterfeit product hurts sales and counterfeit products made in questionable working conditions can damage a brand’s reputation, putting both consumers and workers at risk.”

China held its position on the Priority Watch List in the 2015 report because of ongoing trade secret misappropriation and instances of trademark counterfeiting, especially online.

USTR was quick to point out, however, that China agreed over the last two years, to protect and enforce IP, letting industry and entrepreneurs have a bigger voice in policy development, and its continuing work to overhaul its IP laws.

“The United States welcomes pro-innovation statements by China, and urges China to continue to engage with foreign governments and stakeholders and to ensure that legal and regulatory reforms adhere to these articulated principles,” the report noted.

India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand also secured spots on the Priority Watch List.

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The U.S. and India worked together more closely on IP concerns in 2015, and though the country will remain on the Priority Watch List for inadequacies in trade secret protection, among other things, USTR said it expects India to make “substantive and measureable” improvements for the benefit of a broad range of creative industries. India’s progress will be monitored in the coming months and the USTR said it was prepared to take further action as necessary if improvements aren’t made.

Concerns have ramped up in Turkey, Indonesia, Russia and Argentina, where IP protection and enforcement have been lacking.

The USTR underscored its dedication to protecting Americans’ intellectual property and resolved to ensure that citizens and companies can create without their creations being infringed or misappropriated.

“Tens of millions of Americans owe their jobs to intellectual property-intensive industries,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said. “Strong and balanced protection and enforcement of intellectual property are critical for promoting exports of U.S. innovative and creative goods and services, and sustaining those jobs here at home.”