Many US trading partners are taking significant steps to improve protection of intellectual property, including software, but several nations still need to combat piracy and counterfeiting, according to a report released by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).
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The USTR's annual report on intellectual property rights noted that several countries have made strides toward addressing piracy and related issues.
Among those are Poland and the Philippines, which have passed optical disc legislation which will help combat optical media piracy. Romania has taken steps to ensure procurement of legitimate software for use by government ministries, while Lebanon, Malaysia, Poland and Taiwan have begun to increase enforcement measures.
But the USTR continues to monitor 52 nations for progress on intellectual property protection. Ukraine is listed as a "priority foreign country", defined by the USTR as a nation pursuing the "most onerous or egregious policies that have the greatest adverse impact on US right holders or products, and are subject to accelerated investigations and possible sanctions".
"We are encouraged by the positive steps that several countries have taken to strengthen [intellectual property rights] protection over the past year. However, the need for significant improvement remains, particularly in the areas of implementation and enforcement," said US trade representative Robert Zoellick.
The USTR lists the European Union on its "priority watch list", countries or unions that do not provide an adequate level of intellectual property protection or enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection.
Others on that list are Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan and Turkey.
The USTR, which compiles information for the report in the first quarter of the year, also announced it would monitor the actions of five nations outside of that normal cycle: Israel in the middle of 2004; Malaysia, Poland and Taiwan later in the year; and China in early 2005.
The USTR called continued ineffective enforcement of intellectual property rights a "global threat". Of particular concern is the problem of growing commercial piracy of optical media such as CDs and DVDs, and "rampant piracy" which continues to persist in Ukraine, Paraguay, Brazil, Russia, Kuwait, Pakistan and other US trading partners.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a coalition of six US trade associations, praised the USTR report.
Worldwide markets are being "swamped" by pirated DVDs, CDs, and CD-Roms, said Eric Smith, president of the IIPA.
The US economy has lost about $10bn to intellectual property theft in the 52 nations listed in the report during 2003, not including internet piracy, he added.
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service