WASHINGTON - Many U.S. trading partners are taking significant steps to improve protection of intellectual property, including software, but several nations still need to combat piracy and counterfeiting, according to a report released Monday by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
The USTR's annual report on intellectual property rights, known as the Special 301 report, notes that several countries have made strides toward addressing piracy and related issues. Among them: Poland and the Philippines have passed optical disc legislation that will help combat optical media piracy; Romania took steps to ensure procurement of legitimate software for use by government ministries; and Lebanon, Malaysia, Poland and Taiwan have begun to increase enforcement measures.
But the USTR continues to monitor 52 nations for progress on intellectual property protection. Ukraine is listed as a "Priority Foreign Country," defined as a nation pursuing the "most onerous or egregious policies that have the greatest adverse impact on U.S. right holders or products, and are subject to accelerated investigations and possible sanctions," according to the USTR.
"Americans are the world's leading innovators, and our ideas and intellectual property are a key ingredient to our competitiveness and prosperity," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement. "We are encouraged by the positive steps that several countries have taken to strengthen (intellectual property rights) protection over the past year. However, the need for significant improvement remains, particularly in the areas of implementation and enforcement."
The USTR lists the European Union on its "Priority Watch List," countries or unions that do not provide an adequate level of intellectual property protection or enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection, according the USTR's definition. Others on that list are Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, and Turkey.
The USTR, which compiles information for the Special 301 report in the first quarter of the year, also announced it would monitor the actions of five nations outside of that normal cycle: Israel in the middle of 2004; Malaysia, Poland and Taiwan later in the year; and China in early 2005.
The USTR called continued ineffective enforcement of intellectual property rights a "global threat." Of particular concern is the problem of growing commercial piracy of optical media such as CDs and DVDs, and "rampant piracy" that continues to persist in Ukraine, Paraguay, Brazil, Russia, Kuwait, Pakistan and other U.S. trading partners, according to the USTR.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a coalition of six U.S. trade associations, praised the USTR report. Worldwide markets are being "swamped" by pirated DVDs, CDs, and CD-ROMs, according to a statement from Eric Smith, president of the IIPA. The U.S. economy lost about $10 billion to intellectual property theft in the 52 nations listed in the report during 2003, not including Internet piracy, according to the IIPA.