Last Friday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) called for action on intellectual property rights (IPR) around the world in a submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in advance of the agency’s annual Special 301 report. Global infringement of IPR, including patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyrights, undermines manufacturers’ innovation and competitiveness to the detriment of jobs and growth.
The USTR Special 301 report—released in April each year—identifies actions taken by other countries that deny adequate and effective IPR protection and names particular countries for follow-up action. The NAM’s submission identified major IPR problems in 11 foreign countries, as well as cross-cutting concerns that impact manufacturers in global markets, including the lack of effective trade secrets protection, rampant counterfeiting and piracy and challenges to IPR in international forums.
The NAM spotlighted its “top five” countries with significant IPR challenges in five countries—Canada, China, Colombia, India and Russia—and requested a more detailed out-of-cycle review of IPR challenges in Canada, Colombia and India. Key concerns include the following:
- Canada: Increasing concerns about patent and data protection policies, particularly Canada’s troublesome and outlying “promise doctrine” under which Canadian courts have revoked more than 20 patents on innovative medicines that have been granted in other jurisdictions and are already being used to treat millions of people around the world
- China: Rampant counterfeiting and piracy, insufficient trade secret enforcement and discriminatory innovation-related policies in important areas like competition, standards and government procurement
- Colombia: Problematic health policies that negatively impact health innovation, including rules granting health officials the ability to subjectively weigh in on patent decisions and provisions allowing compulsory licensing
- India: Inadequate patent protection, including troubling patent revocations and inadequate data protection, issues that persist despite stepped-up U.S. efforts to engage the Indian government in dialogue
- Russia: Ineffective trademark and copyright enforcement and practical barriers to using legal protections for intellectual property, which continue to spur significant counterfeiting and piracy problems.
Strong protection of IPR is critical to driving innovation and solutions to global challenges, such as increasing energy efficiency, promoting the next generation of health care technologies and advancing the digital economy, as well as supporting manufacturing growth and the good-paying jobs it produces. The NAM will intensify its work to track, analyze and promote concrete progress overseas to address trade barriers and economic loss caused by weak intellectual property protection, including concerted advocacy efforts with both U.S. and foreign governments as well as with domestic and foreign business groups.