The Office of the USTR is currently once again naming marketplaces and countries that are believed to encourage IP infringements: the Notorious Markets List 2018 highlights physical and online markets notorious for counterfeit and pirated goods. The Special 301 Report 2019, on the other hand, identifies countries believed to inadequately protect US firms’ IP rights.
This year's Notorious Markets List will likely be a source of disappointment for Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, whose trading platform Taobao.com is named for the third time in a row. Previously, Alibaba had publicly refused to accept its place on the black list and reported new successes in the fight against counterfeiting. Yet the USTR still has grave concerns that small and medium-sized companies in particular often face ineffective cancellation processes on Taobao.com and delayed responses when it comes to handling complaints. In addition, the USTR is now for the first time naming Pinduoduo as one of the marketplaces believed to significantly encourage counterfeit products and copyright piracy. In the last year, Pinduoduo has been at the centre of public criticism due to the sale of counterfeits by third-party sellers.
However, other online giants do not feature on the list, such as American retail platforms Amazon and eBay, whose anti-piracy measures have also been heavily criticised in the past. At the end of last year, for example, one American industry association demanded that the USTR include several of Amazon’s country-specific platforms in the Notorious Markets List.
Besides compiling a list of notorious markets, the USTR has also just published its new watch list for countries that are believed to damage American firms due to inadequate measures to tackle IP infringements: The Special 301 Report once again highlights China, India and Russia as particularly problematic countries when it comes to IP protection; for the first time, Saudi Arabia also finds itself on the so-called Priority Watch List.
The USTR now ranks Canada as lower priority – America’s neighbour was included on the Priority Watch List last year, but has since introduced significant reforms. These include ratification of the new USMCA trade deal with Mexico and the US. Nevertheless, the USTR believes there is still a backlog when it comes to enforcing IP rights in Canada. The USTR places it on the same level with Romania, which is the only EU country on the list.