The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last month released its fifth annual Notorious Markets List, a publication of select online and physical marketplaces that facilitate intellectual property violations.
The list identifies physical venues, such as the largest shopping market in Rio de Janeiro and a complex of seven-story buildings in Shanghai selling wholesale goods, as well as a number of online sites that engage in intellectual property rights infringement. For the first time, this year's report included internet domain registrars, which manage Web addresses for a fee and may facilitate online counterfeiting or piracy on sites using their domains. Examples include online pharmacies selling goods labeled with counterfeit trademarks as well as online file sharing services facilitating the illegal distribution of media protected by copyright law. Other notable venues are not on the list, such as Alibaba Group's Taobao.com, which received a number of complaints from copyright holders about counterfeit products, according to a Chinese government report. The Taobao marketplace was removed from the list in 2012 after taking anti-counterfeit measures, and its parent company now has a prominent presence in mainstream U.S. capital markets after its record-breaking initial public offeringin 2014.
While many of the countries hosting the markets in the List are accused of intellectual property violations in other major studies, a number of online marketplaces are based in countries that have established intellectual property protections and are therefore not usually seen as offenders, such as Spain, Sweden, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
While identifying notorious intellectual property offenders has proven effective for private and public entities to encourage reform by highlighted offenders, the list has no legal bearing. A broader analysis of intellectual property protection and enforcement in particular countries and economies is presented in the U.S. Trade Representative's annual Special 301 Report (see coverage in the June 2014 and February 2015 issues of the TMA).