Taiwan leaves Special 301 Priority Watch List at long last

Taiwan

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that it has removed Taiwan from its Special 301 Priority Watch List and placed it instead on the Watch List. Taiwan had been on the Special 301 Priority Watch List since 2001 and this move is a positive reflection of the many substantial measures undertaken by the government to improve the scope of IP protection on the island.

Among these government measures are the following:

  • The Legislative Yuan passed amendments to the Copyright Act.

  • The Legislative Yuan toughened the Pharmaceutical Act in response to concerns raised by the USTR and foreign chambers of commerce. The amendments focus on the worsening problem of pharmaceutical piracy and raise the maximum sentences for parties manufacturing or importing counterfeit pharmaceuticals from seven to 10 years.

  • The government has set aside dedicated storage facilities for manufacturing equipment seized in raids.

  • The National Police Administration formed a specialized force of over 200 officers for IP rights infringement cases, which resulted in notable inter-agency cooperation. There has also been increased street-level policing of night markets and small retailers - traditionally outlets for counterfeit goods - resulting in a visible decline of open marketing of pirated goods.

Possibly one of the most significant steps forward, however, is the proposed creation of specialized IP courts. Last year the Judicial Yuan announced that it planned to undertake a year-long feasibility study on the creation of such courts. The proposal already has the support of the Executive Yuan under its three-year IPR action plan. While the exact composition and scope of the courts has not been finalized, it appears that they will be at levels equivalent to the High and Superior Courts and will handle civil and administrative litigation arising from IP enforcement actions brought under various laws. In the interim, judges and prosecutors continue to receive specialized IP rights training to further bolster IP protection.

Despite these measures, Taiwan must continue to improve in some areas if it is to be removed from the USTR's Watch List this April. A number of concerns were noted by the USTR when it announced the change in Taiwan's status, including the ongoing problems of internet copyright infringement, the lack of adequate data protection for pharmaceutical products and insufficient protection for agrochemical products.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs has announced that measures are being undertaken to address the concerns raised by the United States and it hopes to have legislation in place by the time of this spring's USTR annual review.

Marcus Clinch, Winkler Partners, Taipei

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