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Taiwan regrets island still on Washington’s IPR watch list

Taiwan yesterday lamented that Washington’s has not removed altogether Taiwan from its watchlist of countries that need to improve intellectual property protection.

Huang Chih-peng, head of the Economic Ministry’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, said he regretted the United States’ decision to still put Taiwan on its watch list despite the island’s efforts to crack down on property rights infringement.

In a news release issued local time yesterday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced the result of its annual review of countries intellectual property rights practices.

Taiwan was removed from a “priority watch list,” but was placed on a “watch list” along with 35 other countries.

The key difference between “the priority watch list” and the “watch list” is that a country on the priority watch list may face sanctions if she doesn’t mend her ways.

Being put on a watch list means a country will be subject to special reviews of her efforts to enforce intellectual property rights.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said while it is somewhat disappointed at the outcome, the island remains committed to improving its property rights protection.

According to an economic ministry statement, last year U.S. companies reported a combined loss of US$315.5 million from Taiwan’s intellectual property rights violations last.

That was an improvement from a loss of US$847.9 million in 2002, thanks to Taiwan’s amendment to its regulations on copyrights protection.

The USTR cited Taiwan as one of several countries that have delivered improvements and progress in addressing intellectual property right-related concerns, by taking more enforcement actions.

Indonesia earned applause for passing optical disc legislation that will help combat optical media piracy. India was also praised, for passing a new ordinance to improve patent protection.

On Taiwan, the U.S. was nonetheless still concerned the island’s crackdown on IPR infringement on the Internet; continued use of pirated commercial softwares by enterprises; illegal photocopy of text books; insufficient effort to prevent pirated or counterfeited goods from being sold to other countries, according to the ministry.

Other challenges facing Taiwan include a possible increase in exports of fake goods after Taiwan removes its Export Monitoring System, preventing spread of bootlegged medicines, and continued operations of unlicensed cable television operators in central and southern parts of Taiwan, the ministry added.

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The other 35 names besides Taiwan on the “watch list” - Azerbaijian, Bahamas, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, European Union, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, LIthuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

China is the highlight of the USTR report this year for its “rampant” copyright abuses.

Acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier acknowledged that China’s leadership was trying to curb piracy of U.S. goods.

But he added “China must take action to address rampant piracy and counterfeiting, including increasing the number of criminal IPR cases and further opening its market to legitimate copyright and other goods.”

“We will work closely with U.S. industry and other stakeholders with an eye toward utilizing WTO procedures to bring China into compliance with its trade obligations,” he said.

This time, 14 countries or economies were put on the priority watch list - Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela.

One country, Ukraine, is designated to be a priority foreign country, remaining subject to US$75 million in sanctions.

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