US keeps India high on intellectual property watchlist news
04 May 2009

Despite New Delhi's pleas, the US has decided that India must retain its 'priority' status on the Special 301 list, which aims to 'name and shame' countries with inadequate protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights relating to American patents and copyright works.

India had hoped to be taken off this list. Early last week, a news agency quoted an unnamed senior Indian official as saying, ''Why should we be on the priority watch list even after the recognition we have got from the World Intellectual Property Organisation.'' But the US's annual classification released on Friday did not effect any change in India's status.

India is however in relatively illustrious company the 35 other countries include Canada, the US' largest trading partner, which has also been put on the 'special' list for the first time. It joins the usual suspects China, the Philippines, and Chile, apart of course from India.

Special 301 is compiled by a number of US trade associations, and is mainly concerned with countries that have major trade relationships with the US. It considerably influences US government trade policy.

The report points out some particularly piracy-prone shopping locations in India. These include Nehru Place and Palika Bazaar in New Delhi, Richie Street and Burma Bazaar in Chennai, Manish Market, Heera Panna, Lamington Road, and the Fort District in Mumbai, and Chandni Chowk in Kolkata.

It names many more locations in China and other countries that are ''well-known for the high volume of pirated software, DVDs and CDs offered for sale''.

In contrast, the Philippines has been upgraded to the US Trade Representatives' Special 301 'ordinary' watch list for the second year running, as it makes extra efforts to curb all forms of intellectual property piracy. The country, however, will be subject to an out-of-cycle review by the USTR within the year.

The US government expressed particular concern about amendments to the patent provision in the Intellectual Property Code regarding pharmaceutical products as well as about the continuing proliferation of optical media pirates. ''The amendment significantly weakens patent protection for pharmaceutical products,'' the USTR said in its 2009 Special 301 Report.

The USTR said the Philippine government has yet to address problems posed by the digital environment, particularly peer-to-peer piracy, mobile device piracy and illegal camcording.

Both Taiwan and South Korea however have scored a point by being dropped from the list. It is the second time that Taiwan was not listed as an IPR violator.

No 'made in India' please
The USTR acknowledged that China is paying increased attention to IP rights, but added that the goal of significantly reducing infringement throughout China has not been met. "China's IPR enforcement regime remains largely ineffective and non-deterrent," wrote the USTR. The report goes so far as to say that China's officials may be concerned about their job security during the economic slowdown and so may have encouraged looser enforcement of IP laws.

On the upside, the USTR says that China went to "unprecedented lengths" to crack down on unauthorised transmissions of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, though overall piracy and counterfeiting levels remained "unacceptably high". Russia sits in a similar position as China, with piracy and counterfeiting (especially of music) remaining core concerns there.


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US keeps India high on intellectual property watchlist