The US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office has added Belarus to an intellectual property rights watch list over a new law allowing the unauthorized use of copyrighted works from countries sanctioning Belarus for its support of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
USTR’s 2023 Special 301 Report on U.S. trading partners intellectual property (IP) rights protections also continued last year’s suspension of its review of Ukraine’s IP practices, due to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of its southern neighbor.
But the USTR’s report added NATO ally Bulgaria to its watch list because Sofia did not sufficiently address deficiencies in its investigation of online piracy cases.
The report now lists 29 countries on its watch list or priority watch list for deficiencies and violations of IP rights. Seven countries are currently on this year’s priority watch list: China, Chile, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Russia and Venezuela.
In the case of Belarus, USTR said that the country’s law allows royalties from unlicensed IP usage to be shifted to the national budget, allowing the regime of Russian ally Alexander Lukashenko to benefit directly from such unauthorized use.
USTR said that China continued to implement amendments to its Patent Law, Copyright Law and Criminal Law as agreed in a 2020 ‘Phase 1’ trade deal with former president Donald Trump, but added “the pace of reforms aimed at IP issues slowed.”
“While right holders have welcomed some positive developments, they raise concerns about the adequacy and effective implementation of these measures,” along with concerns about technology transfer, trade secrets and counterfeiting.
USTR also said the report also raises concerns with the European Union’s “aggressive promotion” of its exclusionary geographic indications policies on cheeses, wines and other agricultural products, which it said impair U.S. trademarks that pre-date such EU protections.
The trade agency also raised concern about EU plans to expand geographic indications to other goods, including apparel, ceramics, glass and handicrafts, with member states now controlling much of the applications review process under policies that took effect in January.
By David Lawder / Reuters