The U.S. Trade Representative released its annual Special 301 Report [an annual enemies list of countries judged not to be doing enough to police US copyrights] yesterday, unsurprisingly including Canada on the Priority Watch list. While inclusion on the list is designed to generate embarrassment in target countries, this year's report should elicit outrage. Not only is the report lacking in objective analysis, it targets some of the world's poorest countries with no evidence of legal inadequacies and picks fights with any country that dare adopt a contrary view on intellectual property issues.
Perhaps the most shameful inclusion in this year's report are a series of countries whose primarily fault is being poor. For example, the list includes Guatemala, a small country the size of Tennessee with a per capita GDP of just over $5,000. It is coming out of an economic depression that had a severe impact on rural income. The IIPA did not ask for it to be included on the Special 301 Report. In response to past pressures and the conclusion of a trade agreement, Guatemala amended its copyright laws, toughened penalties, created a special IP prosecutor, and increased IP enforcement within the government. Yet the USTR included it on the list.
Note that the USTR did not criticize Guatemala's laws as the government has complied with repeated U.S. demands to shift resources toward IP enforcement. Indeed, there is no obvious reason for inclusion on the Special 301 list other than an attempt to lobby a country that ranks 123rd worldwide in per capita GDP to spend even more money enforcing US intellectual property rights rather than on education, health care or infrastructure, the sorts of expenditures that might improve the country's overall economy and ultimately lead to reduced rates of infringement.
Researcher Yarden Katz scraped the database of Intellectual Ventures, a giant business that buys up patents, but produces nothing but lawsuits (previously), and discovered that IV claims ownership of nearly 500 patents that were created at public expense by researchers employed by public universities, and another 100 or so patents filed by the US Navy.
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