U.S. Adds Canada to IP ‘Priority Watch List’

The decision reflects Canada's "failure to resolve key longstanding deficiencies in protection and enforcement" of intellectual property.
Matthew HellerApril 27, 2018

The Trump administration on Friday moved Canada to the same “priority” level as China in its list of countries that inadequately protect U.S. intellectual property rights.

China has now been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s “Priority Watch List” for 14 straight years, with the 2018 “Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights” faulting the country for its “coercive technology transfer practices” and “trade secret theft, rampant online piracy, and counterfeit manufacturing.”

“China remains a hazardous and uncertain environment for U.S. right holders hoping to protect and enforce their IP rights,” USTR said.

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But in the biggest surprise in the report, Canada was shifted from the lower-level “Watch List” to the “Priority Watch List,” joining China and 10 other countries including Colombia, India, Russia, and Ukraine.

“Canada remains the only G7 country identified in the Special 301 Report and the downgrade to the Priority Watch List this year reflects a failure to resolve key longstanding deficiencies in protection and enforcement of IP,” the report said.

“Significant concerns include poor border and law enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirated goods, weak patent and pricing environment for innovative pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding [geographical indications],” it added.

As Reuters reports, the increased criticism of Canada came as its foreign minister “was locked in intense negotiations” with USTR over updating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Washington has demanded that a modernization of the 1994 pact include stronger IP protections.

“Canada does not provide full and fair national treatment with respect to copyright and related rights, and has specifically denied U.S. creators and performers remuneration to a greater extent than other countries,” the special report said.

Colombia was also added to the Priority Watch List for failing to revise its copyright laws as required under a free trade agreement with the United States, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were added to the Watch List, which now totals 24 U.S. trading partners.

Saudi Arabia had been removed from the Watch List in 2010 in recognition of improvements to its IP regime.