Off the Watch List: 4 Countries Strengthening Intellectual Property Rights Protection

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently released its annual Special 301 Report, on global intellectual property rights protection. The report highlights and monitors countries with IP enforcement inadequacies and places them into two lists, the “Priority Watch List,” and the “Watch List.”

With the exception of Israel, whose status is pending, the “Priority Watch List” remains unchanged since 2009. (The Israelis have agreed to address several issues relating to pharmaceutical products, and the Property Rights Alliance will continue to monitor their progress.)The “Watch List,” on the other hand, did see an improvement from last year. Four countries—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Saudi Arabia—all made great strides to increase IPR enforcement.

The Czech Republic successfully cracked down on border markets notorious for selling counterfeit goods. Officials also increased the punishments for IPR related crimes. The maximum jail time was raised by six years, and the storing of counterfeit goods, not just the sale, is now illegal.

Hungary increased efforts to spread piracy awareness. The government implemented numerous public awareness campaigns and increased educational training for law enforcement officials. These efforts have enhanced the police’s ability to detect fake goods. Furthermore, Hungary was able to close Budapest’s Verseny street market, which was infamous for selling counterfeit products.

Poland improved efforts to combat internet piracy, reduced the number of counterfeit goods entering its borders, and strengthened cooperation between copyright holders and law enforcement officials. The findings coincide with the 2010 International Property Rights Index (IPRI), which raised Poland’s Intellectual Property Rights score from 2009. The score reflects Poland’s commitment to strong patent and copyright protection.

While the IPRI stated that, “Copyright piracy presents a serious problem with pirated material accounting for an estimated 52 percent of the business software market,” the 301 Report removed Saudi Arabia for taking steps to improve this problem. According to Ambassador Kirk, “Over the last several years, Saudi Arabia has stepped up its enforcement actions, strengthened its legal framework, and demonstrated a commitment to fostering innovation and creativity.” Hopefully, Saudi Arabia’s IPRI score will reflect these new developments next year.

The Property Rights Alliance applauds these states for strengthening IP protection. More jobs, more innovation, less crime, and greater prosperity will result from their efforts. Hopefully, the other 37 countries on both watch lists will follow suit.