Since 1989, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has released an annual report under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 labelled as the ‘Special 301 Report’. 

The aim of the report is to identify trade barriers to US companies and products in other countries.  Specifically, the report identifies countries that inadequately protect intellectual property rights (IPRs) or which provide inequitable market access to companies.  While the report serves the interests of US innovators, bringing IPRs related issues to the fore and having these issues resolved is beneficial for all.

A copy of the 2014 Special 301 Report is available here [755KB].

While some progress has been made to strengthen IPRs protection and enforcement in Asia, it is not surprising to find that there is a continued focus by the US in this region in the 2014 report.

Australia is mentioned in the report in relation to ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations with the US and other countries, and realising the vision of free trade in the Asia-Pacific (see more here).

Significant points in the 2014 report:

  • 82 trading partners were reviewed, 37 of which were placed on either a Priority Watch List of Watch List with regard to the insufficient IPRs protection or enforcement, or otherwise limited market access.
  • Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela are on the Priority Watch List.
  • Twenty-seven trading partners are on the Watch List, meriting bilateral attention to address underlying IPRs problems:  Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.  
  • Italy and the Philippines have been removed from the Watch List as a consequence of improvements to their IPRs regimes.
  • The report highlights growing or continued concerns with respect to the environment for IPRs protection and enforcement, particularly with respect to India and China.