Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Corporate Counsel reports on IP Sacntions in Ukraine

The article below is a reposting of a Corporate Counsel article. Read the original article here.

The Obama administration has apparently decided Ukraine has enough on its plate dealing with Russia and won’t have to also cope with intellectual property trade sanctions imposed by the United States. The U.S. Trade Representative, which designated Ukraine a “priority foreign country” last year, said it would not take any action against the country for now.
“In light of the current political situation in Ukraine, no action under Section 301(b) is appropriate at this time,” the USTR said in its notice in the Federal Register.
This month the Russian Federation seized military and strategic locations within Crimea and officially annexed the region, which had been part of Ukraine. Russian troops are now also lined up along its border with Ukraine.
Section 301 refers to part of the Trade Act that requires the USTR to each year identify countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or fair and equitable market access to U.S. companies that rely on IP protection. Most of those identified are placed on a “Watchlist” or “Priority Watchlist” in the USTR’s Special 301 Report, which is published annually on April 30.
But the USTR can also designate “Priority Foreign Countries.” It reserves this label for nations it determines have “the most onerous or egregious acts, policies, or practices” and whose intellectual property policies and practices have “the greatest adverse impact” on U.S. trade. This designation is rarely used, but in 2013 the USTR assigned that designation to Ukraine. It was the first time in seven years that a country was listed in that category. The USTR placed a total of 40 countries on its two 2013 watchlists [PDF].
The USTR provided specific grounds for putting Ukraine in its harshest category last year, including the use of infringing software by Ukrainian government agencies and its online infringement of copyright and related rights. It also said it had not seen any improvement since issues were raised in previous years.
“The 2013 Special 301 review found Ukraine distinct from other trading partners both in its persistent failure to meet its commitments to improve IPR protection, including commitments in an Action Plan negotiated with the United States in 2010, and in the degree of deterioration in IPR protection, enforcement, and market access for persons relying on IPR in Ukraine,” the USTR wrote in its Special 301 report last year. “Ukraine’s actions or inactions are causing significant damage to these industries reliant on those IPR in Ukraine’s market, and in other markets as well."
Since announcing the designation last year, the USTR said officials from the U.S. and Ukraine have held “constructive discussions.” But U.S. concerns, the agency said, “were not resolved.”
“The Trade Representative has determined … that the acts, policies, and practices subject to investigation are unreasonable and burden or restrict U.S. Commerce,” the USTR’s March 13 notice in the Federal Register said.
But it added that in light of Ukraine’s current political situation, it would not take any action “at this time” and looks forward to further engagement with the Ukrainian government “at an appropriate time.”

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