KEI Statement on USTR 301 list

USTR has released its 2010 Special 301 list. Closely following the IIPI and the PhRMA asks, the Special 301 Priority Watch List countries are: Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela. Among high income countries, Finland, Norway and Spain made the Watch list this year. Sweden was off.

As usual, the list is highly political. It is not as if Canada doesn't protect IP more than countless countries not on the Priority list. (See Michael Geist on this) China is probably hard wired to the list for domestic political reasons. Compulsory licensing was mentioned in connection with China and Ecuador, in a report that declared that compulsory licensing of patents was a "right" of countries, but also something that the US would monitor. No mention of the growing number of compulsory licenses issued in the US as part of the post eBay standards for injunctions on patent infringement cases.

General Electric (the owner of MSNBC) is very influential with the Obama Administration, and highly focused on medical devices. GE and other device manufacturers have also hired former USTR officials. It shows in this report, which deals extensively with the medical device market.

Pharmaceutical test data and some type of linkage between patent status and drug registration are common asks in the 301 report. The language on linkage is somewhat weaker than in past reports, which is a good thing. The language on pharmaceutical test data is also weaker, focusing on "effective protection," which is also an improvement.

Overall, I expected a worse report.

As others have noticed, the report did not address a number of industry requests to attack national policies that support free/open source software, or open standards. Complaints about drug pricing were quite limited, compared to last year's report. Now that the Health Reform legislation is in hand, it is possible that the Obama Administration will be trying to emulate many of the practices to restrain prices that were criticized in previous reports.

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