- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

The Bush administration yesterday again cited China and Russia as serious intellectual property violators, and noted continuing concerns about several other countries as well.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab’s office, which released its annual report on other countries’ protection of intellectual property rights, said: “Rampant counterfeiting and piracy problems have continued to plague China and Russia.”

Also on the administration’s “priority watch list” are Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela. Thirty-one other countries are of lesser concern.

The U.S. recently filed suit in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China for its purported piracy, and has been joined by Canada, the 27-nation European Union, Japan and Mexico.

Despite anti-piracy campaigns and an increasing number of intellectual property cases in China’s courts, “overall piracy and counterfeiting levels in China remained unacceptably high in 2006,” the report said, citing U.S. industry estimates that 85 percent to 93 percent of all copyright material sold in China was pirated.

Moreover, the Chinese portion of intellectual property-infringing seizures at U.S. borders rose to 81 percent last year from 69 percent in 2005, according to the report, which said Chinese counterfeits include pharmaceuticals, electronics, batteries, auto parts, industrial equipment and toys.

On Russia, the report said U.S. industries estimate they lost more than $2.1 billion last year because of Russian copyright piracy, and it said criminal probes are in progress in Russia and elsewhere against operators of a Web site that the report said “offers global distribution of pirated music and is the most notorious of several problem websites operating from within Russia.”

The Trade Representative’s Office cited large-scale production and distribution of optical media and “minimally restrained Internet piracy” as among major problems in Russia.

The coming months will be important as Russia moves to implement commitments made as part of its agreement with the U.S. on WTO membership, the report said. Russia will be subject to an additional review before next April’s report.

“I know that our Russian colleagues see the value of intellectual property to Russia’s economy and are working hard to deliver on their commitments,” Mrs. Schwab said. “I urge them to make the most of the coming weeks and months.”

China and Russia did, however, make positive steps, according to the report, with China having joined two treaties for copyright protection and Russia having made commitments to improve intellectual property protection and enforcement as it moves toward joining WTO.

Also on the positive side, the report noted that Vietnam joined the WTO in January, enacting an intellectual property law and implementing regulations, and Taiwan made “significant strides” in property rights enforcement.

The administration announced that several countries are having their status improved, or being removed from the watch list completely because of progress made, including the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, the European Union and Latvia.

Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Dan Glickman applauded the report, saying it “indicates the scope of global piracy and serves as a sobering reminder of the challenges ahead.”

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