USTR’s Annual Special 301 Report

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    Recently, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 Report.

    About Special 301

    • It provides the outcome of an annual review of the global state of IPR protection and enforcement.
    • The review reflects to encourage and maintain enabling environments for innovation, including effective IPR protection and enforcement.
    • The Report identifies and addresses a wide range of concerns that limits innovation and investment like:-
      • The deterioration in the effectiveness of IPR protection and enforcement.
      • Inadequacies in trade secret protection in countries around the world.
      • Increasing incidence of trade secret misappropriation.
      • The continuing challenges of copyright piracy and the sale of counterfeit trademarked products on the Internet.
      •  Market access barriers, including non-transparent, discriminatory or otherwise trade-restrictive measures
      •  Ongoing, systemic IPR enforcement issues at borders and in many trading partner markets around the world.

      Significance of the Report

    •  It aims to improve the environment for authors, brand owners, and inventors around the world. 
    •  It identifies the trading partners that do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) rights.
    • For countries that fail to address U.S. concerns, USTR takes appropriate actions against them which may include enforcement actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act.

    Key Highlights of the report 

    • The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) reviewed more than 100 trading partners for this year’s “Special 301 Report”, and it categorised eight on Priority Watch List and 23 on the Watch List.
      • Watch list countries
        •  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.
      • Priority Watch List Countries
        • India , Argentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Venezuela.
    • The United States has been closely monitoring China’s progress in implementing its commitments under the United States-China Economic and Trade Agreement.
      • China’s efforts 
        • In 2020, China published several draft IP-related legal and regulatory measures and finalised over a dozen measures.
        • China amended the patent Law, copyright and criminal laws in the past year. However, these steps toward reform require effective implementation and fall short of the full range of fundamental changes needed to improve the IP landscape in China.

    Reasons Cited for Putting India on the ‘Priority Watch List’

    India remains one of the world’s most challenging major economies with respect to the protection and enforcement of IP.

    • The potential threat of patent revocations, lack of presumption of patent validity and the narrow patentability criteria under the India Patents Act burden companies across different sectors.
    • 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.
    • 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’s initiative in safeguarding IPR

    • The Government has taken several steps that have led to an improvement in patent filing, as also for safeguarding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Some of these steps are:
      • National IPR Policy for India: It was adopted by the Government of India on 12th May 2016, as a vision document that lays the future roadmap of IPRs in India.
      • Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM): It has been set up to coordinate the implementation of the National IPR Policy.
      • IP awareness programmes: They have been undertaken in academic institutions, at both school and college level, as also for industry. 
      • Simplification of Procedure: To streamline the processing of IP applications, IP procedures have been simplified and made user friendly by amendment to the Patents Rules in 2016 and Trademarks Rules in 2017.

    What is Intellectual Property Right (IPR)?

     

    • It refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
    • IP is protected by law, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from their inventions or creations.
    • The IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
    • Innovation and creative endeavours are indispensable elements that drive economic growth and sustain the competitive edge of the economy of any country.

    Source: IE