On April 28, 2017, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced the release of the 2017 “Special 301” Report, reviewing global developments on trade and intellectual property (IP) and identifying trading partners with harmful records on protection, enforcement, or market access for U.S. innovators and creators. The Report calls on U.S. trading partners to address IP-related trade barriers, with a special focus on the countries identified on the Watch List and Priority Watch List.
Significant elements of the 2017 Special 301 Report include the following:
- USTR continues to place China on the Priority Watch List. Longstanding and new IP concerns merit attention, including with respect to coercive technology transfer requirements, structural impediments to effective IP enforcement, and widespread infringing activity – including trade secret theft, rampant online piracy and counterfeiting, and high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit exports to markets around the globe.
- India also remains on the Priority Watch List this year for lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its IP framework on longstanding challenges and new issues that have negatively affected U.S. right holders over the past year, particularly with respect to patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and enforcement.
- USTR highlights troubling trends in counterfeiting and piracy. The problem of trademark counterfeiting continues on a global scale and involves the production of and trade in a vast array of fake goods, which harms consumers, legitimate producers, and governments. Digital piracy of U.S. movies, music, books, software and other works presents unique enforcement challenges for right holders in countries around the world. In many of the countries identified in the Report, including our neighbors Canada and Mexico, USTR notes the lack of adequate authority for customs officials to seize and destroy counterfeit and pirated goods at the border.
- The Report also focuses on the negative market access effects of the European Union’s approach to the protection of geographical indications in the EU and third-country markets on U.S. producers and traders, particularly those with prior trademark rights or who rely on the use of common food names.
- USTR closes the Out-of-Cycle reviews for Pakistan and Spain who have both undertaken improvements in recent years. Pakistan has maintained positive momentum in its efforts to reform its IP regime and Spain has strengthened its criminal laws for IP infringement and demonstrated a continued commitment to tackling online piracy. USTR also announces that it will continue Out-of-Cycle reviews for Colombia and Tajikistan, and initiate an Out-of-Cycle review for Kuwait to promote engagement and progress on specific IPR opportunities and challenges identified in this year’s review.
USTR provides the annual Special 301 Report to Congress, in coordination with all relevant U.S. government agencies.