US closes IP investigation into Thailand

Robert Lighthizer, the US Trade Representative (USTR), has closed an investigation into Thailand’s IP protection and enforcement after progress was made by the country.

The probe, a special 301 out-of-cycle review, was initiated in September this year after Thailand was placed on the priority watch list in the “2017 Special 301 Report”.

Released in April, the report is an annual review of the state of IP protection and enforcement for US trading partners around the world.

It found that US rights holders continued to face challenges with respect to “adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement, as well as fair and equitable market access” in Thailand.

However, at the time, the US noted that it was prepared to review Thailand’s status if the country continued to take positive action on IP issues and made substantial progress in addressing concerns.

These concerns included a failure to address the emerging challenges of piracy, a backlog in pending patent applications, a lack of adequate protections against the circumvention of technological protection measures, and lengthy civil enforcement proceedings.

On Friday, December 15, Lighthizer announced that the review has been closed and that Thailand has been moved from the priority watch list to the watch list.

“A key objective of the Donald Trump Administration’s trade policy is ensuring that US owners of IP have a full and fair opportunity to use and profit from their IP around the globe,” said Lighthizer.

Trump’s Administration engaged with Thailand to improve IP protection and enforcement as part of the bilateral US-Thailand Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.

According to the release, the engagement has yielded results on resolving IP concerns across a range of issues, including on enforcement, patents, pharmaceuticals, trademarks, and copyright.

Thailand established an interagency national committee on IP policy and a subcommittee on enforcement against IP infringement, led by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively.

The committees have improved coordination among government entities, and made enhanced and sustained enforcement efforts to combat counterfeit and pirated goods throughout the country, said the USTR.

Steps have also been taken to address backlogs for patent and trademark applications, including significantly increasing the number of examiners and streamlining regulations.

Thailand became the 99th member of the Madrid System in August this year.

The USTR added that Thailand has also committed to improve transparency related to pharmaceutical issues.

Lighthizer concluded: “The key to promoting innovation is protecting IP. We welcome the corrective actions that Thailand has taken and look forward to continuing to work with Thailand to resolve our remaining IP concerns.”

Source WIPR

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