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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The US Special 301 review

February sees a rush of petitions to the USTR as part of the annual Special 301 review of US trading partners' IPR protection regimes. The early part of the month sees companies and associations filing their petitions, setting out their views on IPR protection in various countries. Then, later in the month governments of countries in question get to file theirs if they choose.

So the Philippines put in a petition seeking removal from the Watch List this year, citing its government’s concerted efforts at protecting IP rights. They pointed to several activities including a number of training seminars, workshops and summits held to focus on IPR protection. They referred to an ongoing enforcement initiative which led to increased fake product seizures.

In early May the USTR's report will help understand the effect of these efforts, whether they have translated into real changes on the ground. Will Philippines Customs still be largely ineffective at stopping fakes? Will the new rules of procedure speed up criminal trials. Will the authorities conduct raids more quickly and effectively? These are some of the questions raised.

The USTR's Special 301 review causes much anger because it seems to be a stick, a high and mighty complaint about others' imperfections. But if governments do make efforts in consequence as the Philippines is doing then perhaps it does achieve its goals.

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