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Philippines’ Call to be removed from USTR Special 301 Watch List Gets International Support

Issued: March 07 2014

The call of the Philippines to be finally removed from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) “Special 301” Report has received support from the international community. The Philippines is currently placed under the ordinary Watch List, the lowest category in the listing of countries that are considered by the US as providing inadequate protection against infringement of IP.
The USTR Special 301 Report is an annual unilateral evaluation on IP protection and enforcement by the US on its key trading partners. Based on the degree of concern, the identified countries are categorized, starting from those countries that elicit the most concern for the US, as “Priority Foreign Countries,” “Priority Watch List” and the ordinary “Watch List.”
The latest statement of support for the Philippines came from Murray Hiebert, a senior fellow and the deputy director at the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Based in Washington, DC, CSIS is a well-known and influential international policy institution. Its 220 full-time staff and network of scholars conduct research and analysis and develop policy initiatives in various disciplines such as defense and security, regional stability and transnational challenges.

The USTR will publish its annual review of IP protection problems around the world, called the 'Special 301' Report, sometime around May. When it does, the USTR should seriously consider graduating the Philippines from its IPR 'watch list.' Manila has taken actions in recent years to build a legal IP infrastructure and crack down on piracy and counterfeiting,” wrote Hiebert and Noelan Arbis, a researcher at CSIS.
Hiebert cited the Philippines recent IPR enforcement initiatives, among them the establishment of an Operation Center that coordinates IP-enforcement initiatives; the enactment of a new law on copyright, the Republic Act No. 10372; the launch of new IP education and advocacy programmes; the adoption of a stronger IP enforcement approach as proven by the higher number of raids conducted; and the capacity-building initiatives in the judiciary.
“It is important that the US recognize the progress the Philippines has made by graduating the country from the Watch List when it publishes the 2014 “Special 301” Report. Doing so would not only reward Manila for what it has already done and encourage additional steps going forward, but it would also provide an incentive to other countries in Southeast Asia trying to implement similar reforms,” said Hiebert.
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Other than RA No. 10372, which updates the country’s copyright law to address modern IP enforcement issues particularly those involving the internet, the Philippines has also implemented key laws and policies that seek to bolster its IP protection and enforcement efforts. These include RA 10088 or the Anti-Camcording Act of 2010 that has recorded convictions already and most recently the RA 10515 of the Anti-Cable Television and Cable Internet Act of 2013 that penalizes the tapping of cable TV and cable internet.
The Philippines was also recently removed by the USTR in its list “Notorious Markets” for piracy and counterfeiting. Prior to this, some of the Philippine malls and markets such as the Greenhills area, Divisoria, Quiapo, Makati Cinema Square, Bindondo and Baclaran had been on the Notorious Markets list for six years.

The Philippines, through the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, formally asked the USTR in February to finally remove the country from the 2014 Special 301 Report.



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