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The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (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, 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 2013, USTR reviewed 95 trading partners for the Special 301 Report. USTR placed 41 trading partners on the Priority Foreign Country List, Priority Watch List, Watch List, or monitoring list. In addition, USTR in the past has also released an out-of-cycle review focusing on “Notorious Markets,” including rogue websites that perpetuate counterfeiting and piracy.
This year, the GIPC submitted comments for the 2016 Special 301 Review. The comments highlighted specific industry concerns of both systemic and precedential nature related to the IP environments in 17 key markets. 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.