U.S. officials call situation 'serious'

Noting some progress made in protecting U.S. intellectual property rights around the world, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative nevertheless said the situation remains “serious” in China and Russia as well as seven other countries.

In its annual “Special 301 Report,” released Friday, the USTR noted that four countries that had been on the Priority Watch List — tracking countries with highest threats to intellectual property — had been downgraded to the Watch List, reflecting improvements made in IP protection.

Stan McCoy, chief of USTR intellectual property and innovation section, identified the four countries as Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and Ukraine.

McCoy said that Russia had stepped up enforcement actions against bootleggers and had also strengthened its IP laws in the previous year. Similarly, he noted that China had increased efforts against software piracy and had also completed accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

But those two countries continue to lead the Priority Watch List because of ongoing “serious IPR concerns,” the report said. Levels of piracy and counterfeiting in China remain extraordinarily high, and Russia still needs to increase enforcement actions because of large-scale production and distribution of pirated goods, according to the report.

McCoy refused to characterize whether the overall problem of international piracy is improving, worsening or staying the same.

The seven other countries on the Priority Watch List are Argentina, Chile, India, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela.

On the Watch List are 36: Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The addition this year of Spain to the Watch List prompted MPAA topper Dan Glickman to comment:

“I fully agree with the USTR’s decision to add Spain to the Watch List. Internet piracy in Spain has reached an epidemic level, damaging both U.S. and Spanish creators. There is strong local support in Spain for increased cooperation with Internet service providers and I hope that the new government will respond favorably.”

Despite its threat to suspend an IP agreement with the U.S. in order to collect $21 million in damages awarded to it by the World Trade Organization (Daily Variety, March 19), Antigua was not included among the 78 countries reviewed in the 301 report.

“No one in the industry made any public comments about Antigua,” McCoy said.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more