Special 301 Report: USTR Reiterates India’s Lack of Progress on Strengthening Intellectual Property Protection

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its 2017 Special 301 Report today, which identifies countries that provide inadequate or ineffective protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights.

AFTI members are encouraged by the new administration’s commitment to calling out foreign countries that fail to provide adequate and effective IP protection, its acknowledgment that IP theft has resulted in distorted markets and unfair trade practices that have harmed American workers and innovators, and its stated desire to use “all possible sources of leverage” to address IP challenges in markets like India.

India has once again been identified on the Priority Watch List due to a number of longstanding IP challenges negatively impacting U.S. business in India, as well as several new IP concerns that have surfaced over the past year.

The report mentions many of the concerns detailed by AFTI’s members in recent submitted comments to the USTR, including a lack of IP enforcement and insufficient policies that make it difficult for innovators to receive and maintain patents and copyrights in India, especially across the software and pharmaceutical industries. Insufficiently robust and enforceable copyright policies also hinder innovation for companies related to music and film production, print publications, and software. Continued lack of trade secret protection is also a serious problem undermining companies’ ability to compete. AFTI had also requested an out-of-cycle (OCR) review of India, in order to assess India’s concrete progress towards critical improvements of its intellectual property regime that manufacturers, innovators, and creators badly need.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to improve the IP environment in India on several occasions, including through language in last year’s National IP Policy and commitments in the India and U.S. Joint Statement on the Trade Policy Forum. However, Modi’s rhetoric generally has not translated into concrete action. In fact, the USTR notes new and growing concerns over India’s vocal support for initiatives that promote IP erosion in multilateral IP forums. India also refuses to join critical international agreements that would improve India’s IP regime. These actions contradict Prime Minister Modi’s rhetoric and high-level initiatives proposed, such as the National IPR Policy and Start-up India.

AFTI members urge the new administration to use both new and existing tools to address these issues, including continued bilateral conversations with India’s government, India-specific action plans as required under the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, and other concrete action to address the deficiencies in India’s IP environment that negatively impact America’s workers and innovators.