Industries Concerned About IP Theft in Variety of Countries

Dozens of businesses, industry groups, and nonprofit organizations expressed concern over insufficient intellectual property rights protections in several countries during the public comment period for the 2021 Special 301 Report on IP protection.

The Special 301 Report is produced annually by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and highlights countries that do not adequately protect intellectual property rights.

Some of the usual suspects topped the comments sent in by trade associations and industries: China, India, Mexico, Russia, and Indonesia to name a few.

All of these countries have been known to serve as hubs for intellectual property theft. According to the 2020 International Property Rights Index, not one of these most-reported countries ranked among the top 40 for intellectual property protection. Indonesia scored particularly low, landing at 98th  out of the 126 countries analyzed for IP protection.

The combination of poor intellectual property rights and the relatively large market size of these countries means they are among the most likely places for American companies to suffer from IP violations. These occurrences are reflected across many industries in the public comments for the Special 301 Report.

“Weak protections for trade secrets and other business confidential information have long been a particular challenge in countries such as China, India and Russia,” explained the National Association of Manufacturers in their comment.

“India’s legal and regulatory systems pose procedural and substantive barriers at every step of the patent process,” the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) wrote. “With regard to patent enforcement, in at least one specific case, the patent holder was forced to wait seven years before receiving a court decision upholding its patent.”

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) wrote, “Bad Faith Trademarks continue to inhibit AAFA members’ ability to access new, or expand in current, markets” and noted that “Despite amendments to China’s Trademark Law, bad faith trademarks continue to flood its system.”

It is particularly striking that China remains at the top of complaints for intellectual property theft after the Trump administration levied Section 301 tariffs on China specifically for China’s unfair trade practices that result in IP theft and coerced technology transfers. After several rounds of tit-for-tat tariffs with severe economic consequences for American manufacturers and consumers, a phase one agreement was reached. The agreement locked in many of the tariffs levied between the two countries, yet it appears the IP theft continues.

As a new trade representative begins to take the helm of USTR, the number one priority should be to end self-inflicted trade wounds and protect the free-flow of American goods and services across the world.

Photo credit: Mixabest via Wikimedia Commons