Malaysia has been taken off the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) watch list for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement issues, in recognition of its progress made. However, seven other Asian countries remain on the watch list.
In the annual Special 301 Report released Tuesday, Malaysia was noted to have been "making significant strides" which include passing copyright amendments to strengthen copyright protection, stepping up its enforcement and promoting regulations to protect pharmaceutical test data.
The country, along with Spain, were the two that made enough progress to be removed from the lower level watch list--which comprises 27 others including the Philippines, Brunei, and Vietnam.
On the higher level priority watch list made up of 13 countries, the four Asian countries which remained from last year's edition were China, India, Indonesia and Thailand. The priority watch list carries no threat of sanctions, but is aimed at shaming governments into cracking down on piracy and updating their copyright laws.
Priority watch list countries improved but not enough
While China remained on the priority watch list, USTR said the country has made some improvements in 2011. The Chinese government has continued to carry out special IPR enforcement campaign which began in 2010 and resulted in some improvements in targeted sectors, it said.
The report also noted Baidu's deal with international music rights holders to ensure that its online music platform transmits legal content. This agreement has led to the the company being taken off the notorious market list, it added.
However, USTR noted that IPR protection and enforcement in China "remain a significant challenge".
Problems found in China include high levels of trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy; rampant physical and online markets selling IPR infringing goods as well as the export of counterfeir goods. The pharmaceutical industry in the country also faces the problem of counterfeit drugs, the lack of effective means to protect pharmaceutical test and other data against commercial use and disclosure.
India also remained on the priority watch list in 2012 and had made "limited progress" in IPR protection and enforcement last year, said the report. Piracy over the Internet continues to grow in the market and the country's proposed partial implementation of the WIPO Internet treaties have been stalled, it said.
For Indonesia, USTR noted that the country has made "positive efforts" last year to strengthen IPR protections. However, it is worried that Indonesia's IPR efforts have not been effective in addressing challenges such as rampant piracy and counterfeiting and the widespread availability of counterfeit pharmaceutical products.
While the USTR applauded the new Thai government's committment to improving IPR protection, it said that it "remains seriously concerned about the country's failture to compete many initiatives in the past years. It pointed to key legislation surrounding landlord liability, unauthorized recording of movies in cinemas, granting Thai Customs with ex officio authority, implementing WIPO Internet Treaties as well as establishing improved legal mechanisms to address the IPR infringement on the Internet.
According to U.S., the Special 301 Report allows the U.S. to promote the protection and enforcement of IPR.
"This year's Special 301 Report is more significant than ever in light of recent U.S. Government data showing that IP intensive industries support as many as 40 million American jobs and up to 60 percent of U.S. exports. When trading partners don't protect IPR, they threaten those critical jobs and exports," said USTR Ron Kirk.