May 15, 2014
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) removed the Philippines from its Watch List in the Special 301 Report where it has been continuously included for 20 years, since 1994.
Inclusion in the Special 301 Watch List means that the country threatens or denies effective protection to intellectual property rights (IPR) or denies fair and equitable market access for persons that rely on intellectual property protection.
The report stated that the Philippines, first placed on the Watch List in 1989, was removed this year based on “sustained actions that the Philippine government has undertaken to improve intellectual property rights protection and civil and administrative enforcement.”
Ricardo Blancaflor, Director General of the Intellectual Property Office, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a text message, that he welcomed the USTR decision. Blancaflor said that enforcement is only the beginning of building respect for IP. The holistic approach taken by the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR) was proven effective in curbing piracy and fighting counterfeits, he said.
During the first quarter of 2014, the value of pirated goods seized by the NCIPR during the first quarter of 2014 increased by 381.9%, the Inquirer reported. The value of the confiscated items totaled P6.2-billion.
The BusinessMirror reported that Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said that the development was a recognition of the country’s positive work in protecting IP. It is part of the string of good news coming from the United States regarding Philippines-United States relations, he said.
Domingo also added that this development could facilitate the country’s membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) led by the US. The TPP is currently being negotiated among 12 countries that account for about 40% of the global economy. It covers cross-border services trade, standards, labor and environment, and IPR which is on top of the usual trade tariff-rate reduction measures.
When the Philippines was on the Watch List in 2013, the Special 301 Report stated that additional challenges remained for the Philippines, including the need for the country to take important steps to address piracy over the Internet, particularly with respect to notorious online markets.
China, now on its 25th appearance in the Priority Watch List, also faced the same problem as the Philippines last year with regard to IP protection on the Internet. Although Chinese government efforts were recognized, the 2013 Special 301 report stated that the rampant cybertheft undermines efforts of IP protection in China where perpetrators have been engaged in sophisticated, targeted efforts to steal IP from US corporations.
Aside from cybertheft, the 2013 Special 301 report stated trade secret theft is also an escalating concern in China. This is mostly done by departing employees, or the result of failed joint ventures, hacking and misuse of information submitted to government entities for purposes of complying with regulatory functions. The report urged the Chinese government to end these activities and to deter further activity through rigorous investigation and prosecution of trade secret thefts both by cyber and conventional means.
China is joined by nine other countries in the Priority Watch List: Algeria, Argentina, Chile, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela.
“I would like to congratulate the Governments of Italy and the Philippines on their removal from the Watch List. Both were named in the first Special 301 Fact Sheet and in many annual reports since, but today we acknowledge their accomplishments and encourage them to continue their progress,” US Trade Representative Michael Froman concluded.