US Chamber Holds Annual IP Attaché Roundtable, Announces New “IP Index”

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Washington, DC – The United States Chamber of Commerce last week held its annual roundtable with US government IP attachés stationed around the world. At the same event, it released a consultant study that rated the IP rights usage of 11 rather different countries.

The event was held by the Chamber’s Global IP Center in Washington, DC on 11 December.

Teresa Stanek Rea, deputy director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, said at the event that intellectual property rights “have never been more important,” and that what is needed are “clear, concise, enforceable rights.” She said that royalty-free innovation would “only spur a race to the bottom” to the lowest wages and standards.

Stanek Rea spoke of the USPTO’s “talented” IP attachés stationed strategically in various capitals in the world. She said they bolster the US relationship with trading partners and cultivate cultural diplomacy. They support an innovator-friendly and IP-friendly system.

“IP attachés are our most valuable assets, because they are the face they see every day,” she said. They report to the USPTO but also to other agencies like the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

She also said that the USPTO is in “robust” discussions with a group of key governments for harmonisation in four key IP issues: grace period, 18-month publication, treatment of conflicting applications and prior user rights. The group, referred to as the Tegernsee Group, was formed in July 2011 and includes the heads of the IP offices of the European, Danish, French, German, Japanese, UK and US patent offices, according to the USPTO harmonisation webpage.

The group’s latest meeting was on 4 October in Geneva, where expert studies were presented on each topic, and it was decided to conduct global stakeholder consultations on the topics. This was first mentioned earlier in the week by USPTO Director David Kappos at the annual IPO/PTO Day.

Stanek Rea said countries are looking to increase work-sharing around the world and have a more harmonised set of IP rules. The IP5 patent offices – US, European Patent Office, China, Japan and Korea – were meeting at the working group level last week to discuss these issues, and that they were starting to see more similarity of thought. “They aim to be high-end innovator countries,” she said.

At the Chamber event, USTR negotiator Stan McCoy discussed the US annual Special 301 report, which names countries the US government says are not adequately protecting US IP rights. He said that over the years, the report has come to focus also on the “unfulfilled promise” of laws that are poorly enforced. There is a “great deal of enforcement sprinkled in” this year’s report, he said.

He said the reports often look similar from year to year, but that they do see progress. He mentioned the new “notorious markets” report on piracy and counterfeiting, which was subsequently released on 15 December.

In the presentations of the IP attachés, Jared Ragland, the IP attaché for China, gave a report highlighting some of the activities occurring there, such as a change to trademark law, a reform of copyright law, as well as changes to the patent law. An amendment to the patent law raises some issues of concern for rights holders, he said, though there are positive aspects too. A concern is that it takes a step backward on administration of patent rights.

On the issue of enforcement, Chinese companies are becoming interested in protecting IP, but Chinese companies are becoming interested in protecting IP, but there is still a “huge problem” with counterfeiting, he said. And trade secret theft, corporate espionage, is a major problem, often arising from disgruntled employees.

In the same week as the event, China was named the country with the most patent filings last year. But many of these are utility patents, which are essentially unexamined, and yet difficult to seek invalidity on.

On Russia, IP Attaché Donald Townsend said it was a “momentous year” for Russia, with its accession to the World Trade Organization, and permanent normal trade relations with the US voted into force. There are new rules on data exclusivity, but still are no implementing procedures.

The biggest problem in Russia is internet piracy, he said, with no clear law for liability. “The piracy rate in Russia is very, very bad,” he said. “We do have a lot of challenges.”

Still, Russia has recognised the importance of an innovation economy, and overall things are “on the upturn” there, he said. In Russia, the presence of a local voice for IP would be helpful, he added.

Michael Lewis, the regional IP attaché for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, noted progress on some issues, but said in Mexico there are “huge problems” with enforcement still, with the border at the top of the list. Customs continues to lack the necessary authority to inspect goods, and it is a “very arduous task” for the rights holder to have a suspect shipment examined. He also pointed to links to transnational crime organisations. He said there is hope the new administration is serious about these “notorious markets.”

Several other IP attachés also spoke at the event, including the two from Geneva (IPW, US Policy, 15 December 2012).

New GIPC IP Index

At the event, the Chamber Global IP Center released its first GIPC International IP Index. The report was entitled “Measuring Momentum,” and is available at www.theglobalipcenter.com.

The report looked at 11 countries and rated them in this order, from best to worst: US, UK, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, Russia, Brazil, China, and India.

It measures the “overall national IP environment and the major forms of IP (e.g. patents, copyrights, trademarks, enforcement, and membership in international treaties),” the report said. The index can be used to identify areas for developing policies aimed at supporting innovative and creative industries, seeking greater investment, and promoting economic development through IP rights. It also can be used by companies seeking to enter or continue to operate in these markets, it said. The index was produced by industry consultancy Pugatch Consilium.

It singled out legislative activity in the countries, as well as actions taken by governments for public health reasons or insufficient action on enforcement or implementation that may have a negative impact on foreign investment.

Several speakers at the event said the report would be useful. At least one IP attaché said it would provide an additional tool for them in negotiations with other governments.

Also at the Chamber event, former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh gave a keynote speech highlighting the importance of IP and its benefit to growth and the economy.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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