Russia and Ukraine on Special 301 Report Priority Watch List

International

Russia and Ukraine have been placed on the list of the worst IP offenders in the Office of the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) latest Special 301 Report, which evaluates the protection of IP rights by the United States’ trading partners on a yearly basis.

Russia has been on the Priority Watch List for 16 straight years, while Ukraine has been moved from the Watch List to the Priority Watch List.

The USTR has placed Russia on the Priority Watch List mainly due to widespread piracy over the internet and the inadequate enforcement of IP rights. While the software piracy rates declined in 2011, stronger enforcement is required in the book/journal publishing, entertainment software, motion picture and movie industries. The United States thus urged Russia to increase the number of IP rights-related investigations and impose more rigorous sanctions against piracy and counterfeiting.

The report also notes the widespread practice of producing counterfeit goods and labels in separate locations outside of Russia to avoid detection. For example, infringers in Russia reportedly import products without labels and then export the finished products to various countries.

The United States also expressed concern about the increase in the manufacture, sale and distribution of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Russia.

On a positive note, the report noted that Russia has:

  • enacted laws to establish a specialised arbitration court for IP disputes by February 2013;
  • amended the Criminal Code, thereby expanding criminal liability for copyright infringement;
  • initiated legal proceedings against the movie-download website 'interfilm.ru' and Russia’s largest social network, vKontakte;
  • made progress in terms of implementing controls on optical media production and led several significant actions against producers and distributors of pirated optical discs; and
  • took steps toward combating counterfeit drugs through a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Health and the Federal Service for Intellectual Property.

The only other eastern European country placed on the Priority Watch List is Ukraine. As stated in the report:

Ukraine made minimal progress in implementing its 2010 IPR action plan commitments, including addressing the government’s use of unlicensed software, amending the copyright law, and increasing enforcement. Ukraine has also done little to address counterfeiting and piracy, and in some cases took steps backwards.”

The United States urged Ukraine to address piracy over the internet and improve its judicial system, which suffers from significant delays, a lack of expertise and inadequate sanctions for IP rights infringement.

Jelena Jankovic, PETOŠEVIC, Belgrade
 

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