Russia remains on Special 301 Priority Watch List
The Office of the US Trade Representative has issued its 2008 Special 301 Report on the global state of IP rights protection and enforcement. Russia was given an 'honourable' second place in the Priority Watch List. The authors of the report claim that it is:
"the result of close consultations with affected industry groups and other private sector representatives, foreign governments and congressional leaders, and interagency coordination within the US government."
The report admits that the protection of IP rights has improved in Russia. Such improvements include:
- the implementation of Part IV of the Civil Code (for further details please see "New Part IV of Civil Code raises trademark issues");
- increased penalties for copyright infringement; and
- action against the manufacture of illegal optical discs.
However, the rest of the report highlights only negative features.
Arguably, the report fails to reflect the reality of IP rights protection in Russia. First, the report dedicates only one page to Russia. In addition, it relies heavily on reports by "affected industry groups" whose opinion was based on findings by the Coalition for Intellectual Property Rights, which have been criticized in the professional press.
Moreover, although the implementation of Part IV of the Civil Code rightly attracted criticism in some respects, it also greatly improved the legislative basis of IP rights protection and implemented most of the provisions contained in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
There are undoubtedly numerous cases of counterfeiting in Russia. However, the Russian government has done much to improve the situation and in 2006 the then Russian vice-premier, Dmitry Medvedev, stated that IP rights protection in Russia is not worse than in any neighbouring country. Over the past years, Russian law enforcement bodies have intensified their efforts to detect cases of infringement and inform IP rights owners. Many IP rights owners have subsequently initiated judicial proceedings or taken other steps to stop the infringement. For example, the number of IP cases before the commercial courts increased by 45% in 2006 and by 26% in 2007.
Moreover, Russian Customs has made significant efforts to stop the stream of counterfeit goods coming across the border. IP rights owners are immediately informed of cases of suspected infringement, but only approximately one in 10 decides to take steps to stop the infringement. Many businesses prefer not to take action if the counterfeiting activities do not threaten their economic efficiency. The Special Report 301 fails to mention these facts.
Arguably, the compilers of the report should first 'look in the mirror', as suggested by Howard Knopf during the 16th Annual Fordham Conference on Intellectual Property Law and Policy held in New York on March 27 and 28 2008.
Vladimir Biriulin, Gorodissky & Partners, Moscow
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