India is on the Priority Watch List of US Special 301 Report
India, along with eight other countries has been placed in the Priority Watch List for IP protection and enforcement by the United States. The countries are Argentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Special 301 Report and India
The Special 301 Report released by US Trade Representative (USTR) flags countries that form serious trade barriers concerning the IP laws of the country. This report points to the adequacy and effectiveness of US trading partners’ protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
[Imge Source: gettyimages]
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, “These countries will be the subject of intense bilateral engagement during the coming year. Over the past year, India has remained inconsistent in its progress on intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement. While India's enforcement of IP in the online sphere has gradually improved, a lack of concrete benefits for innovators and creators persists, which continues to undermine their efforts. India remains one of the world's most challenging major economies concerning protection and enforcement of IP.”
This year, USTR has reviewed 100 trading partners for the Special 301 Report, keeping nine on the priority watch list and 23 on the watch list. The 23 trading partners on the Watch List are Algeria, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam
Katherine said, “Intellectual property rights incentivize our creators, manufacturers, and innovators to invent new products and technologies. The laws, policies, and practices that protect those rights must appropriately balance the interests of creators with those seeking to use their creations. Failing to adequately and effectively protect those rights in foreign markets hurts the US economy, the dynamism of American innovators, and the livelihoods of our workers.”
With the pandemic affecting globally, the USTR office stated that its top priority is saving lives and ending the pandemic. Reaffirming, TRIPS agreement and Public Health it stated that it respects trading partner rights and promotes access to medicine.
In India, the USTR said patent issues continue to be of particular concern as long-standing issues remain for innovative industries. Katherine added, “Moreover, patent applicants continue to confront costly and time-consuming pre and post-grant oppositions, long waiting periods to receive patent approval, and excessive reporting requirements. Stakeholders continue to express concerns over vagueness in the interpretation of the India Patents Act.” Nevertheless, on the trading terms the US intends to continue to engage with India on IP matters, including through the United States-India Trade Policy Forum's Intellectual Property Working Group, she added.
The Philippines removed from the list
The Philippines has been removed from the US watch list Special 301 Report. The report released by US Trade Representative (USTR) flags countries that form serious trade barriers concerning the IP laws of the country.
Rowel S. Barba Director General of Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said, “We welcome the Philippines' continuing absence from the US Trade Representative's (USTR) Special 301 Report, an accomplishment that has helped promote the Philippines as a thriving investment destination for the US and other foreign businesses since 2014.”
Presenting their case, DG IPOPHL states that, "We are particularly pleased with the dismissal of the incorrect finding that our government uses unlicensed apps, an assertion that we have consistently refuted." IPOPHL also presented the government agencies' expenditure on approved software, as per the data provided by the Department of Budget and Management. With the data on expenditure, Executive Order No. 262, series of 2000, entitled "Providing Policies, Guidelines, Rules, and Regulations for the Procurement of Goods/Supplies by the National Government," and Memorandum Circular No. 115, released on April 5, 1995, were also quoted.
Giving reason to USTR, IPOPHL cited Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act 2002, for ensuring that only authentic and registered bidders engage in the bidding process. To this Barba commented that the reduced areas of concern are a result of IPOPHL's whole-of-society role in heading the 12-member National Committee on IP Rights (NCIPR) implementation activities and coordinating with relevant private stakeholders.
IPOPHL’s Deputy Director-General, Teodoro. C. Pascua, on resolving the remaining allegation with USTR, stated that the whole-of-society work will continue, while IPOPHL also works with the US Trade. Representative to resolve remaining allegations, such as the sluggish opposition and cancellation cases, geographical indication (GI) requirements, and the country's role as a source of counterfeit drugs.
Pascua remarked, “IPOPHL continues to have fact-based responses demonstrating that our regulatory resistance and cancellation proceedings have improved. In terms of the GI results, we will take care of the USTR's remarks and forward them to Congress when it drafts GI legislation." Clarifying about the bill for amending the IP code, Pascua expressed his optimism over the bill to be signed into law, which doubles the fine and punishment for counterfeit drugs.