IP Justice Urges USTR to Consider Broader Policy Goals in Annual “Special 301” Process
On 31 January 2022 IP Justice submitted a comment to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) via its “Special 301” annual review process, which evaluates other countries’ laws and practices regarding intellectual property rights. Each year, the USTR’s Special 301 process requests input from the public and then compiles lists of countries that the US government deems inadequate and potentially subject to trade sanctions and other penalties.
In the submission, IP Justice said that increasing rights for IP holders without balancing those increases with other important policy goals such as freedom of expression and other human rights can create harmful impacts for society at home and abroad. IP Justice encouraged the USTR to recognize broader policy goals beyond blindly increasing intellectual property rights and noted certain countries on the USTR’s lists who have made considerable efforts to increase the rights of intellectual property holders.
IP Justice urged the USTR to consider broader social and policy goals such as promoting development, innovation, the free flow of information, taking into account the global public interest. The civil liberties organization said that recognizing that different economies have different interests and that heightening intellectual property rights is not always in every country’s best interest could bring greater understanding to the USTR and US policy regarding intellectual property. Allowing flexibilities to better suit local circumstances should be considered in its analysis and final annual report, the comment argued.
IP Justice’s submission pointed out that the Chinese government’s creation of the IP Chamber and its swift operation favoring IP holders demonstrates that China has taken significant steps to acquiesce to US demands to increase intellectual property protection and enforcement in China. The comment also underlined efforts taken by Canada, Saudi Arabia, and ASEAN countries to increase intellectual property rights in response to US pressure. Canada was applauded for committing to provide immunity protections for intermediary liability similar to the US’ Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
The USTR will issue its final report in the annual review process around 30 April 2022.