Manufacturers hold Copyright Concerns in Russian WTO Negotiations

President Obama wants negotiations on Russia’s admission to the World Trade Organization finished soon, and some U.S. manufacturers worry Russia will be given an easy ride on counterfeiting.

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 Steve Chiotakis: President Obama says he wants negotiations on Russia’s admission to the World Trade Organization finished fast. The call for speed has some U.S. manufacturers worried that Russia will be given an easy ride on all the counterfeiting going on over there. From Moscow, Peter van Dyk reports.

Peter van Dyk: Inside a shop barely bigger than a closet, the walls are stacked floor to ceiling with CDs, computer games and DVDs, including a dozen copies of the movie Knight and Day and all four Shrek films on one disc. How much for the Shreks? Two-hundred rubles, the guy in the shop says. Less than seven bucks. Counterfeit DVDs like this are common, but Russia says the situation is improving.

Vladimir Biriulin: The government is certainly doing much to stop the sales of illegal DVDs or trademark products.

Vladimir Biriulin is the head of the legal department at Russian law firm Gorodissky and Partners. He says companies can get justice through the Russian courts on intellectual property violations.

Biriulin: If an IP owner, be it a copyright owner or a trademark owner, wants to stop an infringement then I can state that, 99 percent, he will have success.

U.S. manufacturers agree the situation has improved in Russia, but they say China’s commitments regarding enforcement of patents and copyrights didn’t materialize after it joined the WTO, and they don’t want to make the same mistake again.

Mark Esper: What we learned from the China experience is that we want to see action before we see accession.

Mark Esper is vice president of the Global Intellectual Property Center in Washington. He says Moscow should be allowed to join the World Trade Organization, but not until Russia lives up to a 2006 deal on strengthening protections for intellectual property rights.

Esper: They were asked to enhance their criminal penalties with regard to piracy and counterfeiting – that hasn’t happened. We’ve asked to strengthen border enforcement – that hasn’t happened. So while it’s fair to say they’ve made progress, it’s also fair to say they haven’t crossed the finish line yet either.

Now President Obama has said he wants the negotiations on Russia’s WTO bid wrapped up soon, but some observers warn that unless Russia does more to protect intellectual property rights, it may have to wait.

In Moscow, I’m Peter van Dyk for Marketplace.

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