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Enhance Special 301 Process
The USTR annually releases its Special 301 Report on the adequacy and effectiveness of IP rights protection by U.S. trading partners. Since the enactment of Section 182 of the Trade Act of 1974, the USTR has played a key role in the development of intellectual property laws worldwide and has monitored efforts by other governments to protect IP rights.
The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 created the Special 301 mechanism that assesses U.S. trading partners’ protection of IP rights. Countries may be designated in the categories of Priority Watch List, Watch List, or Section 306 monitoring status. In 2011, USTR reviewed 77 trading partners for the Special 301 Report. USTR placed 42 trading partners on the Priority Watch List, Watch List, or Section 306 monitoring list. In addition, USTR released a special out-of-cycle review earlier in the year focusing on “Notorious Markets,” including rogue websites.
In anticipation of this year’s report, the GIPC submitted comments for the 2012 Special 301 Review. The GIPC believes that USTR’s Special 301 Report provides an important tool to assess those countries that fail to abide by their IP rights obligations as outlined in trade agreements and international rules.
However, we encourage Congress to supplement this process by granting USTR new enforcement tools to ensure that violator countries develop comprehensive, behavior-changing plans that will protect the rights of American innovators and creators in these countries. Congress should enact legislation to help the USTR deal more effectively with countries that do not live up to their international IP obligations. This legislation should require an action plan for Priority Watch List countries that includes clear benchmarks to measure performance. Congress should also include in this legislation authorization for new IP attachés at key U.S. embassies abroad to monitor priority countries and assist U.S. businesses with protecting their IP rights in those countries.