Category: China

USTR Releases Annual Out of Cycle Review of Notorious Markets

It is that time of year again when the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) releases its annual report on Notorious Markets—The 2014 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets. As we reported on last year, this annual review identifies foreign physical and online markets reported by U.S. businesses and industry organizations as being engaged in substantial IP piracy and counterfeiting.

This year’s review identified several foreign social media and file transferring websites, as well as a number of Internet service providers (ISPs), as being notorious markets including those hosted or located in Argentina, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Russia, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. Additionally, physical markets in Argentina, Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand and Uruguay were also identified as being notorious markets.

The USTR also highlighted a number of recent developments including efforts by certain previously listed Chinese sites to curb piracy activities on their websites, as well as increased enforcement actions by rights holders and government officials to shut down physical and online markets in Brazil, the European Union and Ukraine among others.

What’s The Takeaway? As we have said before, every foreign market has its own IP protection challenges. U.S. businesses that operate abroad or are expanding into new markets should review the USTR’s 2014 Out of Cycle Review of Notorious Markets to help evaluate the IP protection risks associated with particular markets they wish to enter. Doing so can help to ensure that such businesses can better protect their IP assets abroad.

Enforcing Online Copyright Protections Abroad: Part II – South and East Asia

One of the most popular posts in The IP Exporter’s history was a posting last year entitled Enforcing Online Copyright Protections Abroad: Understanding Foreign Takedown Notice Requirements, which detailed how copyright owners and certain licensees of works (collectively “Rights Holders”) can directly enforce their rights in their works against foreign hosted websites in some of the world’s major markets (U.S., Australia, China, Japan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom).

Since I published that post, I have received numerous requests to provide information on procedures Rights Holders can take to directly enforce their rights online in several other foreign markets. To meet this demand, I have decided to ambitiously attempt to provide a multi-volume posting on the availability of notice and takedown procures in all countries throughout the world, starting with this post on notice and takedown procedures in South and East Asia.

However, before I delve into each country’s online copyright enforcement procedures, Rights Holders need to first evaluate a few issues before utilizing online copyright enforcement measures abroad.

1. Is the Work Entitled to Foreign Protection? A Rights Holder should not consider utilizing online takedown procedures in a foreign country without first establishing that their work qualifies for copyright protection in that foreign country. Often, this depends on whether their work qualifies for protection under: (1) the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) or other bilateral or multilateral treaties; and (2) the national copyright laws of the foreign country in question.

Berne Convention/Treaties. To qualify for protection under the Berne Convention, a Rights Holder’s work must become what is known as “attached.” Attachment requires that either:

  • the author of the work be a national of a Berne Convention member state (A list of Berne Convention member states is available here);
  • the author is a habitual resident of a Berne Convention member state;
  • the work is first published (made available to the public) in a Berne Convention member state; or
  • the work is published in a Berne Convention member state within thirty (30) days after an initial publishing in a non-Berne Convention member state.

If a work does not qualify for protection under the Berne Convention, it may qualify for copyright protection in a foreign country under a bilateral or multilateral treaty between the author’s home country and the foreign country in question. If the non-Berne Convention country is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has ratified the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the work may qualify for Berne Convention-like protection in other WTO member states.

Additionally, a work may qualify for protection in a foreign country based on a bilateral or multilateral agreement. A database of IP-related treaties can be found here.

National Copyright Protection Requirements. If a work qualifies for protection under the Berne Convention, TRIPS, or another bilateral or multilateral treaty, it must then qualify for protection under the copyright laws of whatever foreign country the Rights Holder wishes to enforce their rights. Many countries have similar copyright protection requirements, yet they do differ. For example a copyright protected work in the U.S. is an “original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” 17 U.S.C. § 102(a). Conversely, a copyright protected work in Japan is “a production in which thoughts or sentiments are expressed in a creative way and which falls within the literary, scientific, artistic or musical domain.” Copyright Act. No. 48, Art. 2. Although these requirements end up covering much of the same types of works, there may be divergences depending on the type of work in question. A Rights Holder should consider consulting with qualified attorney in the country they wish to enforce their rights if they are unsure whether their work qualifies for local copyright protection.

2. Where is the Website’s ISP Subject to Jurisdiction? In order to effectively submit a takedown notice against an infringing website, the infringing website’s Internet service provider (ISP) must be subject to a country that has notice and takedown laws. This requires evaluating whether a notice and takedown country has personal jurisdiction over the ISP in question. Generally, a website’s ISP is only subject to the laws of a country where it is physically located or countries where it is engaged in enough commercial activity to establish personal jurisdiction. Determining an infringing website’s ISP’s location may be completed through conducting a WHOIS database search. However, such a search is a not guarantee that a website ISP’s will be accurately located.

Further, determining whether a website’s ISP is subject to a foreign country’s jurisdiction is a complex legal evaluation that differs from country to country based on each country’s own personal jurisdiction requirements. Again, a Rights Holder should consider consulting with qualified counsel in the country where they wish to submit a takedown notice to determine whether the ISP in question is subject to that country’s jurisdiction.

3. What is the Country’s National Online Copyright Enforcement System? If a work qualifies for copyright protection in a foreign country where an infringing website’s ISP is subject to personal jurisdiction, a Rights Holder then needs to establish whether that country has a notice and takedown system, and if available, such country’s specific takedown procedures.

Below is a brief overview of each South and East Asian country’s copyright enforcement system. However, there are few things to first consider:

Enforcement System Legend: Countries that maintain legal protocols for Rights Holders to directly petition ISPs to remove infringing content are identified below as a “Notice and Takedown Systems.” Countries that do not have means for Rights Holders to directly enforce their copyright protections through ISP notification systems, and are instead forced to seek copyright enforcement action through the Courts are referred to as “Judicial Systems.”

Notice Limitations: Unfortunately, even if a country maintains a Notice and Takedown System, an ISP may still refuse to disable a website or website content upon receipt of a takedown notice from a Right Holder. In such instances, a Rights Holder may be forced to seek enforcement through that foreign country’s judicial system in order to remove such content.

Time Sensitivity: As many of the listed countries in this posting are either evaluating or in the process of implementing copyright reforms, either on a national level or through bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, there is the possibility that the following information may soon change.

Here are each country’s online copyright enforcement system:

Afghanistan

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: No

Overview and Notes: Afghanistan is not a Berne Convention or TRIPS member state, meaning that foreign works may not qualify for copyright protection under Afghan Law. However, works from the U.S. may be entitled to certain legal protections in Afghanistan under the Joint Statement of Commercial Cooperation between U.S. and Afghan governments as both governments agreed to “establish a forum for the exchange of information on commercial matters . . . including intellectual property rights protection and enforcement.” However, the Joint Statement provides no specific details on what rights U.S. Rights Holders are entitled to under Afghan law.

Governing Legislation: Law Supporting the Rights of Authors, Composers, Artists and Researchers (Copyright Law)

Notice Requirements: N/A

Bangladesh

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Bangladesh does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Copyright Act, 2000 (Act No. 28 of 2000 – Amended 2005)

Notice Requirements: N/A

Bhutan

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Bhutan does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Copyright Act and Industrial Property Act of 2001

Notice Requirements: N/A

Brunei Darussalam

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Brunei does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders. Particularly, Article 10 of the Electronic Transactions Order (2000) eliminates an ISP’s liability for hosting infringing third party content. However, Brunei may adopt a Notice and Takedown System in the future if the U.S.’ Proposed IPR Chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is adopted.

Governing Legislation: Emergency Copyright Ordinance (2000)

Notice Requirements: N/A

Cambodia

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes*

Overview and Notes: Cambodia is not a Berne Convention member state but is a TRIPS signatory, which requires upholding much of the Berne Convention’s protections. However, Cambodia does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Law on Copyright and Related Rights

Notice Requirements: N/A

China (PRC)

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Although China maintains and a Notice and Takedown System, there has been reports that many of China’s major ISPs fail to takedown hosted content upon receipt of legitimate takedown notices. For example, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has criticized Baidu for its 42% takedown rate.

Governing Legislation: Article 14, Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information Networks

Notice Requirements:

-The Rights Holder’s name, address and contact information;
-The title(s) and website address(es) of the infringing content which is requested to be removed or disconnected;
-Preliminary evidence of the work(s)’ infringement; and
-A request that the ISP remove the infringing content.

East Timor (Timor Leste)

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: No

Overview and Notes: By not being a Berne Convention or TRIPS member state, foreign works may not qualify for copyright protection under East Timorese law. Further, East Timor has not passed any specific copyright legislation since its independence in 2002.

Governing Legislation: N/A

Notice Requirements: N/A

Hong Kong

Enforcement System: Voluntary Notice and Takedown System/Judicial System.

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Although the Hong Kong Commerce and Economic Development Bureau drafted a proposed Notice and Takedown system in the Code of Conduct for Online Service Providers, Hong Kong has yet to formally enact a Notice and Takedown system. The Code of Conduct’s notice and takedown provisions have since become voluntary guidelines for Rights Holders and ISPs to manage online copyright infringement complaints.

Governing Legislation: Section 3.5, Form A, Code of Conduct for Online Service Providers (voluntary guidelines), Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) (mandatory)

Notice Requirements (from the Code of Conduct):

-The Rights Holder’s name, address for service in Hong Kong, contact telephone number, and any other relevant contact information;
-Particulars of the copyright work(s) alleged to be infringed including the name or description of the copyright work(s), type of work(s), date of creation or first publication of the copyright work(s), and name of the current owner of the work;
-A statement confirming that the Rights Holder submitting the complaint is the copyright owner or authorized representative of the copyright owner;
-Identification and online location of the material and/or activity which is the subject of the alleged infringement;
-In cases of information location tools, identification of the reference or link to the material or activity in question and its location;
-Description of how the material or activity in question infringes the copyright owner’s rights in the copyright work(s);
-A statement that the submitting Rights Holder believes in good faith that use of the material, or conduct of the activity in the manner complained of is not authorized by the law of Hong Kong, the copyright owner or its authorized representative(s);
-A request that the ISP send a copy of the notice to its subscriber whose account for online services has been used or involved in the alleged infringement;
-A request that the ISP remove the allegedly infringing material, disable access to the infringing material/activity;
-A declaration that the submitting Rights Holder declares that the information contained in this notice is true and accurate to the best of his knowledge and belief;
-A declaration that the submitting Rights Holder understands that it is an offence to make any false statement in this notice (the maximum penalty of which is a fine of HK$5,000 and imprisonment of 2 years), and that he or she is also liable to pay compensation by way of damages to any person who suffers loss or damage as a result of the false statement; and
-Signature and date of the submitting Rights Holder.

India

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System (temporary)

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: India’s notice and takedown protocols establish that allegedly infringing content will be taken down 36 hours after a Rights Holder submits a takedown notice to an ISP, and the ISP provides notice of the Rights Holder’s notice submission to the alleged infringer. If the Rights Holder’s notice is satisfactory to the ISP, the ISP will restrict access to the infringing website(s) for 21 days from the date of receipt of the Rights Holder’s notice or until the ISP receives a Court order restricting public access to the alleged infringing website(s), whichever is earlier.

It is important to note that only an owner or an exclusive licensee of a copyright-protected work may submit a notice pursuant to India’s notice and takedown protocols.

Governing Legislation: Rule 75, The Copyright Rules, 2013

Notice Requirements:

-The description of the work infringed with adequate information to identify the work;
-Details establishing that the submitting Rights Holder is the owner or exclusive licensee of copyright in the work;
-Details establishing that the copy of the work which is the subject matter of transient or incidental storage is an infringing copy of the work owned or exclusively licensed by the submitting Rights Holder and that the allegedly infringing act is not covered under section 52 or any other act that is permitted under the Copyright Act (1957);
-Details of the location where transient or incidental storage of the work is taking place;
-Details of the person, if known, who is responsible for uploading the work infringing the copyright of the submitting Rights Holder; and
-Signature and date of the submitting Rights Holder.

Indonesia

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Indonesia does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders. The Indonesian Parliament is reported to be evaluating amendments to its copyright laws that will create a Rights Holder Internet copyright notification system through the Ministry of Communications and Informatics that will evaluate alleged infringements and order that ISPs takedown infringing content. The IIPA has criticized this proposed copyright enforcement system as it does not provide injunctive relief against non-compliant ISPs, nor a repeat infringer policy, or allow Rights Holders to submit complaint notices directly to ISPs.

Governing Legislation: Law No. 19 of July 29, 2002 on Copyright

Notice Requirements: N/A

Japan

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Japan’s notice and takedown protocols establish that allegedly infringing content will be taken down seven (7) days after a Rights Holder submit a notice to an ISP, and the ISP provides notice to the alleged infringer.

Governing Legislation: Article 3(2)(ii), Act No. 137 0f 2001 (Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to Demand Disclosure of Identification Information of the Senders)

Notice Requirements:

-Information and location of the particular alleged infringement;
-Suggested enforcement actions to be taken by the ISP;
-The rights in the work that are allegedly being infringed;
-The reasoning why the Rights Holder believes that an infringement has taken place; and
-The Rights Holder’s contact information.

Laos

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Laos does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Law No. 01/NA of December 20, 2011, on Intellectual Property

Notice Requirements: N/A

Macau

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Macau does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Decree-Law no. 43/99/M (Regime of Copyright and Related Rights)

Notice Requirements: N/A

Malaysia

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Malaysia recently enacted copyright reforms that permit Rights Holders to submit infringement notices to ISPs that will remove hosted infringing content within 48 hours of notice of the alleged infringement to the ISP. However, Malaysia’s notice and takedown protocols do not providing specific notice requirements.

Governing Legislation: Article 43H – Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012

Notice Requirements: As mentioned, Malaysia does not provide specific requirements for ISP takedown notices.

Maldives

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes*

Overview and Notes: Maldives is not a Berne Convention member state, yet is a TRIPS signatory that requires that  Maldives uphold much of the Berne Convention’s protections. Maldives does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Copyright and Related Rights Act 2010

Notice Requirements: N/A

Mongolia

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Mongolia’s copyright legislation requires that ISPs prevent any copyright violation on websites they host and provide Right Holders the ability to enforce their rights through submitting reports to the ISPs of such violations. However, the legislation provides no specific requirements for such “reports.”

Governing Legislation: Article 25, Law of Mongolia on Copyright and Related Rights

Notice Requirements: Unspecified

Myanmar

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes*

Overview and Notes: Myanmar is not a Berne Convention member state, yet is a TRIPS signatory. However, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Myanmar’s current copyright laws “do not prescribe copyright of other countr[ies] to be recorded in Myanmar and copyright obtained in other countries can not be enforced in [Myanmar].”

Further, Myanmar does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Copyright Act of 1914

Notice Requirements: N/A

Nepal

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Nepal does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Copyright Act, 2059 (2002)

Notice Requirements: N/A

North Korea

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: North Korea does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing LegislationCopyright Law of the DPPK (Amended by Decree No. 1532 of February 1, 2006)

Notice Requirements: N/A

Pakistan

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Pakistan does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing LegislationCopyright (Amendment) Act, 1992

Notice Requirements: N/A

Philippines

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Philippines does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: E-Commerce Act (Republic Act. No. 8792)

Notice Requirements: N/A

Taiwan

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Taiwan’s notice and takedown protocols establish that allegedly infringing content will be taken down five days after notice is provided from a Rights Holder to an ISP, and from the ISP to the alleged infringer.

Governing Legislation: Article 3 – Regulations Governing Implementation of ISP Civil Liability Exemption, Article 90terdecies – the Copyright Act

Notice Requirements:

-The Rights Holder’s name, address, and telephone number (or fax number or e-mail address);
-The name(s) of the copyrighted work(s) being infringed;
-A statement requesting the removal of, or disabling of access to, the content that allegedly infringes the identified copyrighted work(s);
-Access or relevant information sufficient to enable the notified ISP to identify the allegedly infringing content;
-A statement that the Rights Holder or the agent thereof is acting in good faith and in the belief that the allegedly infringing content lacks lawful licensing or is otherwise in violation of the Copyright Act; and
-A declaration that the Rights Holder is willing to bear legal liability in the event there is misrepresentation with resultant injury to another.

Thailand

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Prior to its dissolution in December 2013, Thailand’s Parliament had evaluated copyright law reforms to enhance online copyright enforcement. However, such proposed reforms would only allow Thai Courts to issue takedown orders against ISPs hosting infringing content and provided no direct notice and takedown procedures for Rights Holders to directly petition ISPs to remove infringing content.

Governing Legislation: Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994)

Notice Requirements: N/A

South Korea

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: South Korea adopted notice and takedown protocols mirroring measures under U.S. copyright law (DMCA – 17 U.S.C. § 512) based on a side letter annexed in the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Governing Legislation: Article 102-103 – Copyright Act

Notice Requirements:

-Statement that the information in the notice is accurate;
-Information reasonably sufficient to enable the ISP to identify the copyrighted work(s) that appear to have been infringed;
-The identity, address, telephone number and electronic mail address of the submitting Rights Holder;
-Statement that the submitting Rights Holder has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
-Statement with sufficient indicia of reliability (such as a statement under penalty of perjury or equivalent legal sanctions) that the submitting Rights Holder is the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed or is authorized to act on the Rights Holder’s behalf; and
-Signature of the submitting Rights Holder.

Singapore

Enforcement System: Notice and Takedown System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Singapore adopted its notice and takedown protocols in 2006 based on a side letter agreement annexed in the U.S-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

Governing Legislation: Section 193(2)(b) – Copyright Act (Chapter 63), Copyright (Network Service Provider) Regulations 2005

Notice Requirements:

-Name and address of the submitting Rights Holder;
-Submitting Rights Holder address for service in Singapore (if a non-Singapore resident);
-Submitting Rights Holder’s telephone number, fax number and e-mail address;
-Identification of copyright material and location of allegedly infringing content;
-A statement that the information in the notice is accurate;
-A statement that the submitting Rights Holder is the owner or exclusive licensee of the copyright in the material referred to in complaint or is authorized to act on behalf of the owner or exclusive licensee of the copyright in the material referred to in the notice;
-A statement that the submitting Rights Holder requires the ISP to remove or disable access to the allegedly infringing content;
-A statement that the submitting Rights Holder or their agent, in good faith, believes that the electronic copy referred to in the notice is an infringing copy of the protected material content;
-A statement that the submitting Rights Holder is the owner, exclusive licensee, or agent thereof of the copyrighted content; and
-A statement that the submitting Rights Holder submits to the jurisdiction of the courts in Singapore for the purposes of any proceedings relating to any offense under section 193DD(1) of the Copyright Act or any liability under section 193DD(1)(b) of the Copyright Act.

Sri Lanka

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Sri Lanka does not currently provide any legal incentives or procedures for ISPs to remove hosted infringing content upon notice from Rights Holders.

Governing Legislation: Intellectual Property Act, No. 36 of 2003

Notice Requirements: N/A

Vietnam

Enforcement System: Judicial System

Berne Convention Member: Yes

Overview and Notes: Although Vietnam recently considered Internet liability reforms as detailed in the proposed Stipulations on the Responsibilities for Intermediary Service Providers in the Protection of Copyright and Related Rights on the Internet and Telecommunications Networks (Joint Circular No. 07/2012/TTLT-BTTTT-BVHTTDL), such reforms have yet to be enacted and do not contain any specific notice and takedown provisions. However, Vietnam may adopt notice and takedown procedures in the future if the U.S.’ draft IPR provisions of the TPP are adopted.

Governing Legislation: Law No. 50/2005

Notice Requirements: N/A

USTR Requesting Public Comments to Assist in Identifying Foreign IP Protection Barriers for U.S. Exports

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced yesterday that it is requesting public comments to assist the USTR in identifying significant barriers to U.S. exports of goods and services, including foreign IP protection deficiencies. The comments are being collected for inclusion in the USTR’s annual National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE Report) that identifies barriers to U.S. exports including the “lack of intellectual property protection (e.g., inadequate patent, copyright, and trademark regimes).”

Last year’s NTE Report identified several U.S. export markets as possessing IP protection trade barriers, or at least IP protection concerns, including Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, European Union (member states), Ghana, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

Public comments for inclusion in this year’s NTE Report are due to the USTR by no later that October 29, 2014. Further instructions on the NTE public comment submission process are available here.

European Commission Reports on Annual Counterfeit Customs Enforcement; Counterfeits by Mail Being Increasingly Targeted

Check out my post today on The IPKat about the European Commission’s recent annual report on EU counterfeit enforcement efforts and how EU customs authorities and rights holders have recently increased their efforts to stop the flow of counterfeit goods arriving by mail into the EU.

It is available at: http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2014/08/ec-reports-on-annual-counterfeit.html.

 

 

 

Whac-A-Mole Trademark Litigation: Using U.S. Trademark Litigation to Combat Foreign Counterfeiters

Check out my post today on The IPKat about a number of similar recent U.S. trademark cases brought by well-known U.S. and Canadian brands against foreign (predominately Chinese) counterfeiters in order to stem the flow of inbound online counterfeit sales into the U.S.

It is available at: http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2014/07/whac-mole-trade-mark-litigation-using.html.

U.S. Congress Evaluates Copyright Reforms With Cross-Border and Trade-Related Implications

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on a number of proposed reforms to U.S. copyright laws that have a number of potential implications for internationally focused businesses. Reforms that were discussed at the Tuesday hearing included termination rights, resale royalties, moral rights and copyright terms. Among those who testified included representatives from the U.S. Copyright Office, the Songwriters Guild of America, Inc. (“SGA”), the Future of Music Coalition (“FMC”), the American Enterprise Institute (“AEI”),and the Creative Commons USA (“CC”).

Although a substantial amount of testimony given at the hearing was related to particular U.S. industries needs (e.g. music and visual arts), potential U.S. termination rights, resale royalties, moral rights, and copyright term reforms has implications on nearly all businesses both in the U.S. and abroad.

To better understand the potential implication of these reforms, it is best to evaluate them individually.

Termination Rights

One of the reforms discussed at the Tuesday hearing that arguably has the greatest likelihood of being implemented, as well as trade-related importance, is termination rights. Under 17 U.S.C. § 203 of the U.S. Copyright Act, a creator of a copyright-protected work (“author”) may cancel the transfer or license of rights to the work 35 years after its transfer or license to another party. However, the elimination of such rights has been recently proposed in U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. In the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, the U.S. has proposed IP Chapter terms that would arguably eliminate termination rights in TPP member states (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam). This means an author from a TPP member state would be unable to terminate the transfer of rights or license of their work in the U.S. or other TPP member state(s) as currently provided under U.S. law.

Representatives from the FMC and CC testified on this issue, both calling for upholding existing termination rights under U.S. law. The FMC went even further and explicitly called on Congress to ensure that such termination rights continue to be made available in international agreements the U.S. enters such as the TPP.

Whether the U.S. decides to uphold or eliminate termination rights will have global implications for international businesses. If the U.S. decides to uphold termination rights in the U.S. Copyright Act and FTAs, it would provide content-producing businesses greater rights and flexibility in protections in their works, both in the U.S. and abroad. In contrast, eliminating termination rights would provide businesses who purchase rights to protected works greater assurance that their ownership or rights to such works will be protected.

Regardless of the benefits or drawbacks of eliminating termination rights, it remains unclear from the Tuesday hearing how Congress will decide to proceed.

Resale Royalties

Tuesday’s hearing also included testimony on whether the U.S. should adopt resale royalty requirements. Some of the U.S.’ major trading partners, such as Australia, the EU, and Russia among others, require that authors (in most cases, visual artists) be entitled to royalties for the resale of their works. However, the U.S. has yet to adopt such measures despite their voluntary recognition in Article 14ter of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (“Berne Convention”), and several U.S. federal and state legislative attempts to do so. The main argument against such royalties is that oppose the first sale doctrine, which generally allows for the unrestricted domestic secondary sale of copyright protected works.

During Tuesday’s testimony, the sole testifying entity, the U.S. Copyright Office, stopped short of calling for the U.S. adoption of resale royalty laws. The Copyright Office recognized the disadvantages visual artists have compared to other authors in recouping the true value of their works, and that over 30 countries have now adopted resale royalty requirements. However, their testimony stated that mandated resale royalties were not the only means to remedy such disadvantages as voluntary initiatives and best practices could also be utilized, and that the true benefits of a resale royalty regime is difficult to quantify.

Based on such timid testimony, it appears unlikely that the U.S. will seriously consider adopting mandated resale royalties as currently provided in EU and other countries in the near future. The lack of a current and potentially future mandated U.S. resale royalty regime emphasizes that visual artists and other authors will need to find alternative means in order to obtain effective compensation for their works.

Moral Rights

The Tuesday hearing also evaluated to what degree the U.S. should adopt stronger moral rights protections. Moral rights, as detailed under Article 6bis of the Berne Convention, gives an author non-economic rights in a work even after the transfer or sale of their work including the right of attribution that allows them to object to the distortion, mutilation or modification of their work. Currently, the U.S. only extends such rights to visual artists under 17 U.S.C. § 106(A) and in an arguably less encompassing manner. In contrast, many major U.S. export markets such as Australia, Canada, China, and EU have more robust moral rights protections.

None of those who testified on moral rights argued for an explicit extension in the U.S. despite acknowledgements of its benefits. The SGA and FMC stressed that freedom of speech and fair use considerations should be balanced with any moral rights considerations, and the CC highlighted the difficulties and costs of establishing exclusive attribution rights. Based on these testimonies, it appears unlikely that the U.S. will adopt moral right reforms in the near future.

Copyright Term

Lastly, but arguably the most contentious issue of this hearing was copyright term reforms, namely the period of time in which a qualifying work is entitled to copyright protection. Under 17 U.S.C. § 302, a copyright protected work is entitled to protection for the life of the author and 70 years after their death for a natural person author, and 95 years for works created by legal entities. Such copyright terms are well beyond international norms as Article 7 of the Berne Convention establishes copyright protection for the life of the author and 50 years after their death for a natural person, and 50 years for legal entities. The U.S.’ extended copyright term is controversial as it is argued to harm the public through unnecessary taxation and limits on creative freedom, especially as the U.S. has proposed that other countries adopt similar terms in FTAs such as the TPP and the U.S.-Australia FTA, just to name a few. Despite these criticisms, such extended terms give U.S. and other FTA member state authors and copyright owners longer copyright protections in their works.

The testimony provided in the Tuesday hearing varied widely as to whether the U.S. should amend its copyright terms, both in the U.S. Copyright Act and FTAs. The CC called for a reduction in copyright terms, while the FMC and AEI took a less argumentative stance by disagreeing with any term extensions. Contrastingly, the SGA rejected any term reductions. The CC was only group to identify copyright term issues in FTAs by highlighting widespread criticism towards the U.S.’ attempt to propose U.S. copyright terms in the TPP and the CC’s efforts against the same. However, the lack of a comprehensive rejection of the U.S.’ current copyright terms or more robust efforts to prevent their inclusion in U.S. FTAs means that any reforms to the U.S. copyright terms are unlikely.

What’s The Takeaway? The Tuesday hearing highlighted that the U.S. is at least evaluating copyright reforms that may harmonize U.S. copyright laws with other countries. Although it appears unlikely that the U.S. will adopt moral rights, copyright term or resale royalty reforms, the potential invalidation of termination rights does seem to be a potential possibility in the near future, especially in light of the U.S.’ TTP IP Chapter Proposal. Businesses and authors with substantial copyright portfolios should be aware of these reform efforts and adjust their copyright protection policies as needed in order to best protect rights in their works, both in the U.S and abroad.

What Proposed Canadian Trademark Reforms Mean For Foreign Businesses

A little over a month ago, the Canadian Government introduced a bill (Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014, No. 1) that proposes substantial reforms to Canada’s trademark system. Initially proposed for Canada to uphold its international IP treaty commitments, the proposed trademark reforms in Bill C-31 will potentially impact not only how foreign businesses obtain trademark protection in Canada, it will also influence how such businesses evaluate their global brand protection and marketing strategies.

Although Bill C-31 offers many important trademark reforms that several commentators have provided good insight on (a couple of good analyses are available here and here), the two proposed reforms that will arguably impact foreign businesses the most are: (1) the removal of date of use requirements for trademark registration; and (2) the adoption of the Nice Classification of Goods and Services.

No Date of Use Requirements For Trademark Registration: Bill C-31 will remove current requirements that a Canadian trademark application enclose a date of use in Canada or another country. Currently, Section 30(b)-(d) of the Trade-marks Act requires that trademark applicants provide the date that their trademark has been used in Canada, is intended to be used in Canada, or details of any registration abroad. However, Bill C-31 removes these requirements and only requires that an applicant “use or propose to use, and are entitled to use” a particular trademark in Canada, effectively removing any requirement of providing a specific date of use of a mark in Canada or abroad in a Canadian trademark application.

The removal of such date requirements has benefits and drawbacks for foreign businesses. It would potentially give foreign businesses time advantages and cost benefits in protecting and marketing their brands in Canada and beyond. Without mandating a showing of use or potential use in Canada, foreign businesses will likely be given time after their trademark is registered to determine whether that mark obtains legal protections in other countries without actually having to use the mark in Canada. This helps such businesses to better evaluate the risks of using a particular brand globally without having to exert funds to show actual use of the brand in the Canadian market. From a marketing perspective, removing dates of use requirements would also give foreign businesses time to determine whether their brands develop positive consumer recognition in other markets prior to use in Canada that can help such businesses to better strategize how to market their goods and services on a global scale.

The downside to the removal of date of use requirements is that it may increase trademark trolling. As other commentators have reported, removing date of use or potential use requirements may allow persons or entities to register unused trademarks in order to extort money from legitimate businesses who have not yet registered such marks with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). If Bill C-31 is implemented in its current form, such a scenario has substantial cross-border business implications as a party could register a mark with CIPO for an emerging foreign business not yet operating in Canada and then extort such business for rights to the mark as they expand into Canada. This often happens in trademark jurisdictions where no dates of use registration requirements exist. For example, China does not maintain date of use trademark registration requirements and famous foreign brands such as Apple, Tesla Motors and even hall of fame basketball player Michael Jordan have had their trademarks prior registered by Chinese trademark trolls.

Although it is uncertain whether Canada’s proposed removal of date use requirements under Bill C-31 will result in the same level of trademark trolling as seen in China, there is such a possibility if such reforms are enacted.

Adoption of the Nice Classification: Bill C-31 will also impact foreign businesses through Canada’s adoption of the Nice Classification of Goods and Services (Nice Classification) for trademark registrations. Under Bill C-31’s proposed reforms, a Canadian trademark application will be grouped according to classifications provided under the internationally recognized Nice Classification, instead of Canada’s own existing wares and services classifications. Being one of the last holdouts to adopting the Nice Classification, Canada’s wares and services trademark classification system has made it challenging for foreign businesses to ensure that their Canadian trademark registrations are harmonized from a classification standpoint with registrations of the same mark in other countries that have adopted the Nice Classification. Further, Canada’s reluctance to adopt the Nice Classification has effectively prohibited Canada from adopting the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol), which allows a trademark application or registration from a Madrid Protocol country to be submitted for registration in other Madrid Protocol countries.

If Canada adopts the Nice Classification, foreign businesses can better ensure that their trademark registrations in Canada cover similar goods and services as provided in registrations of the same mark in other countries. Further, as Canada’s adoption of the Nice Classification would better allow Canada to implement the Madrid Protocol in the near future, such reforms would give foreign businesses the potential to reduce costs and logistical burdens in registering their marks in Canada and other Madrid Protocol countries. However, it is important to emphasize that Bill C-31 does not effectively implement the Madrid Protocol.

What’s The Takeaway? Bill C-31 proposes several substantial reforms that may benefit foreign businesses, while also posing some potential risks. Although Bill C-31’s proposed reforms are promising, Bill C-31’s reforms have yet to be enacted and it is uncertain whether its proposed reforms will be enacted in the same form described in this positing.

Regardless of whether Bill C-31’s trademark reforms are perceived to be beneficial or problematic, no one can deny that its proposed reforms will dramatically impact Canada’s trademark system for foreign businesses.

EU Expands Enforcement Protections Against Counterfeit Goods: What IP Rights Holders Should Know

Last month, the European Parliament passed legislation and the European Court of Justice (CJEU) handed down a ruling that expands trade-related intellectual property (IP) protections in the European Union (EU) and beyond. Particularly, the European Parliament passed laws granting EU customs officials the ability to detain trademark counterfeit transshipments transiting the EU, while the CJEU ruled that EU customs authorities can seize counterfeit goods in the EU that were purchased for personal use from sellers outside the EU. Although these are positive developments that provide IP rights holders the ability to stem the flow of infringing goods, and ultimately better enforce their IP rights across borders, they also have important requirements and limitations that need to be understood.

Counterfeit Transshipments. On February 25th, the European Parliament approved amendments to the EU’s main trademark act (Council Regulation (EC) 207/2009) that will permit EU customs authorities to seize suspected trademark counterfeit goods that are being transshipped through the EU. According to reports, these reforms follow previous limitations on customs seizures that were handed down in recent CJEU decisions. Particularly, a joint 2011 CJEU decision (Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV v. Lucheng Meijing Industrial Co. Ltd. (C-446/09) and Nokia Corporation v. HMRC (C-495/09)) held that copyright and trademark counterfeit goods could only be seized by EU customs officials if they were intended for sale in the EU, and not merely transiting through EU territory.

The new Directive (T7-0118/2014) is an attempt to reverse (in part) the 2011 joint CJEU ruling by granting EU trademark owners expanded rights to legal action. According to the legislative text, a EU trademark owner will have the right to prevent others from bringing non-circulated goods into the EU that bear the owner’s trademark without authorization. This includes the “right to request national customs authorities to take action in respect of goods which allegedly infringe the [IP rights holder’s] rights.”

Beyond giving IP rights holders valuable protection against the flow of counterfeit goods into the EU, the Directive also has IP protection implications beyond Europe. According to the latest statistics available from the World Shipping Council, eight of the 50 largest container ports in the world are located in the EU. The Directive thereby gives IP rights holders the ability to stop counterfeit goods leaving a substantial number of the world’s major transshipment points, thereby limiting the global dissemination of goods infringing their marks.

Although the reforms are a welcomed enhancement of cross-border protections for IP rights holders, there are a few considerations and limitations IP rights holders should be aware of:

Trademarks Only. The Directive only applies to trademarks. Although an IP rights holder can register their EU trademarks, copyright, patents and geographical indications for monitoring by EU customs officials, the Directive’s transshipment protections only apply to trademark counterfeit goods. Similar measures may be soon adopted to prevent transshipments of counterfeit copyright goods through the EU as the European Commission is currently evaluating copyright reforms. Yet, the Directive’s exclusion of copyright counterfeit goods is particularly problematic as copyright counterfeit goods constitute a substantial amount of counterfeit goods being transshipped through the EU and other major markets.

Community Trademark Registration Required. To qualify for transshipment counterfeit protections under the Directive, a trademark owner would likely need to register their mark on a community-wide (EU) level with the Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM). Each EU member state maintains their own trademark offices, granting a registered mark exclusive protection in their state respectively. Yet, a trademark owner would likely need a community trademark registration to qualify for the Directive’s transshipment protections as the Directive’s text only identifies “European Union trademarks” as qualifying for such protections. Fortunately, qualifying foreign IP rights holders may be able to more easily (and cheaply) obtain community registration(s) through registering their trademark(s) through the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol). However, requiring a community trademark registration to qualify for the Directive’s new protections puts EU member state trademark owners at a disadvantage compared to community trademark owners.

Customs Recordation Required. A trademark owner or rights holder would need to record their community trademark registration with EU customs authorities to qualify for the Directive’s new transshipment protections. Although customs recordation is not a specific requirement under the Directive to qualify for the enhanced transshipment protections, it is required to ensure EU customs officials are made aware of a community mark owner’s or right holder’s registration.

Directive Has Yet to be Enacted. Lastly, it is important to note that the Directive has yet to be enacted in EU member states and it remains to be seen how it will be implemented. EU member states have 30 months to implement the new Directive into their national laws, and although they are obligated to adopt the laws effectively and in the spirit of the Directive, the member states’ implementing legislation may have specific divergences.

Counterfeits for Personal Use. On February 6, 2014, CJEU ruled in Blomqvist v. Rolex SA (C‑98/13) that EU customs officials could seize and destroy non-EU originating counterfeit goods in the EU that were purchased by EU citizens for personal use. In Blomqvist, a Danish citizen bought a fake Rolex watch from a Chinese online seller. When the watch entered Denmark, Danish customs reported the suspected counterfeit to Rolex’s IP rights holder, who in turn demanded the destruction of the counterfeit watch. Danish courts found that because the counterfeit watch was purchased from a non-EU seller who was not directly selling or advertising to EU consumers, and because the watch was purchased for personal use, such a purchase did not constitute trademark or copyright infringement by the purchaser under Danish law.

The CJEU in Blomqvist reversed and found that Rolex’s copyright and trademarks were infringed, and that a EU IP rights holder does not have to prove that a non-EU seller was directly trying to sell or advertise counterfeit goods for personal use in the EU in order for EU customs officials to seize imports of the counterfeit goods. Under the EU’s previous customs regulations (Council Regulation 1383/2003), a EU trademark or copyright owner would have to prove that the counterfeit seller was directly trying to market their counterfeit goods to EU consumers in order for the personal purchase to be subject to infringement and seizure. As reported by commentators, the Blomqvist Court differed from the Council Regulation by establishing that an IP rights holder is entitled to protection of their EU trademark or copyright whenever an infringement of the same occurs in EU territory, and that counterfeit goods can be seized whenever such infringing goods enter EU territory.

Although the Blomqvist ruling gives IP rights holders stronger protections against foreign counterfeit sellers, like the Directive, there are considerations and limitations IP rights holders should be aware of:

EU IP Protection and Customs Recordation Required. Like the Directive, a trademark or copyright owner would need to ensure that their IP qualifies for protection in the EU and that they have recorded such IP with EU customs authorities in order to qualify for protections under Blomqvist.

Additional Investigation Suggested. Qualifying IP rights owners will likely need to investigate and track suspected non-EU counterfeit sellers to determine when and to whom they are selling personal counterfeit goods to ensure effective protection under Blomqvist. Rolex was fortunate in Blomqvist that a single counterfeit of their watch was detected by EU customs authorities. Unfortunately, not all brands are as well known as Rolex. A similar counterfeit personal purchase shipment for a lesser known brand may not have been as easily identified by EU customs authorities. These circumstances mean that an IP rights holder may need to perform their own monitoring to effectively detect personal shipments of counterfeit goods entering the EU. Unfortunately, this can be an expensive service that many IP rights owners do not have the resources to obtain.

What’s The Takeaway? These recent EU counterfeit enforcement reforms show that the EU is serious about preventing the cross-border flow of counterfeit goods. IP rights owners who have had problems with IP enforcement in the EU or through transshipments originating in the EU, now (or will soon) have enhanced means to protect their IP against counterfeits. Despite these advancements, IP rights holders should work closely with their counsel to ensure they understand and comply with the requirements and limitations of these recent reforms.

New USTR and IIPA Reports Describe the Current State of IP Protections for U.S. Businesses Abroad

Over the last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) released reports on the current state of intellectual property (IP) protections for U.S. businesses abroad. These reports provide updated insights on foreign countries and foreign retail markets (both physical and online) that have recently caused U.S. businesses the most IP protection difficulties.

Here is a summary of the reports:

IIPA 2014 Special 301 Report Submission

On February 8th, the IIPA submitted their 2014 Special 301 Report Submission to the USTR. As one of the largest U.S. lobbying groups for the copyright-based industries, the IIPA’s submission identifies the foreign countries the IIPA believes provides the most ineffective IP legal protections for U.S. businesses. The USTR’s final Special 301 Report (released annually April-May) provides reporting to the U.S. government and the general public on the countries that, according to the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act (19 U.S.C. § 2242(a)), deny “adequate and effective protection of [IP] rights” or “fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon [IP] protection.”

Although the U.S. government rarely imposes trade sanctions based on the Special 301 Report, a country’s listing in the final report often impacts the U.S.’ trade relations with that country and the degree to which the U.S. government initiates trade promotional activities with the same. From both a private sector and practical standpoint, the Report also represents a review of the markets that U.S. businesses have had the most IP protection challenges.

What countries did the IIPA recommend for inclusion in the 2014 Special 301 Report?

Priority Foreign Countries. For a second year in a row, the IIPA has identified Ukraine as being a “Priority Foreign Country.” This is the least favorable designation available under the Special 301 reporting system. Specifically, it identifies that country as one with the “most onerous or egregious acts, policies, or practices” that “have the greatest adverse impact (actual or potential) on the relevant [U.S.] products” without making efforts to ameliorate their status. 19 U.S.C. § 2242(b)(1)). Ukraine’s designation as a Priority Foreign Country was based on a number of factors, most notably the absence of effective online copyright enforcement, and unfair and non-transparent royalty society collections. Shockingly, the classification was also based on reports of widespread software pirating by Ukrainian government agencies.

Priority Watch List and Watch List Countries. The IIPA’s Special 301 Report Submission lists Argentina, Chile, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam on the “Priority Watch List,” and Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Ecuador, Greece, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan as “Watch List” countries. Although not as a severe rating as a Priority Foreign Country, being listed as a country on the Priority Watch List or simply Watch List means that a country has potential IP protection deficiencies that require varying levels of USTR monitoring.

Newly Non-Listed Countries. It is also important to note that the IIPA has recommended removing a number of countries from the final 2014 Special 301 Report due to their improvements in IP protection. These countries include Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets

Also, on Wednesday, the USTR released an Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets that identified physical and online markets reported by U.S. businesses and industry organizations as being engaged in substantial IP piracy and counterfeiting. The Review includes particular social media and file transferring sites hosted abroad, including sites hosted in Antigua and Barbuda, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland (possibly), Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vietnam. Specific physical markets in Argentina, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, Thailand and Ukraine were also deemed notorious.

What’s The Takeaway? Every foreign market has its own IP protection challenges. U.S. businesses that are exploring expansion into new markets should consider the IIPA’s Special 301 Report Submission (as well as the USTR’s Final Special 301 Report due out later this year), and the USTR’s Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets to help evaluate the IP risks associated with such markets. Doing so can help to ensure that such businesses can better protect their IP assets as they expand.

Don’t Be Scared of Havarti! Geographical Indication Issues Exporting Businesses Should Consider

Late last month, the European Commission approved for publication (pre-registration) a geographical indication (GI) application for the Danish cheese HAVARTI. This raised concern amongst interested industry groups, and should cause concern amongst all export-focused businesses. Similar to trademarks, and particularly certification marks, GIs are legal protection granting producers of a particular type of product from a specific geographical region the exclusive right to use the geographical region’s name (or a regionally-known name) on their products and in related promotions. Being an exclusive right, GIs exclude producers from other regions from labeling and marketing similar or identical products under the same GI name. This means, for example, that a U.S. sparkling wine can never be sold as CHAMPAGNE in the EU, or a Kenyan tea as DARJEELING in India. If registered, the EU HAVARTI GI would exclude non-Danish cheese producers from labeling and promoting their Havarti cheeses in the EU as HAVARTI.

So what’s concerning about the potential EU HAVARTI GI registration for non-dairy businesses? Well, industry groups such as the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) argue that allowing the EU HAVARTI GI application to be registered would contravene international standards by prohibiting non-Danish cheese producers from labeling and promoting their own Havarti cheeses in the EU as HAVARTI, even if they meet recognized international Havarti cheese production standards. From an intellectual property perspective, the registration would arguably expand EU GI protections to common (generic) named products. Commonly named GIs such as DIJON for mustard and CHEDDAR for cheese have traditionally been restricted from GI protection due to their common vernacular usage. HAVARTI is a widely known cheese variety this is arguably as generic as these other excluded food names. By allowing HARVARTI’s potential GI registration, the European Commission could possibly allow other generic named products to be registered as GIs, thereby hindering the promotional efforts, and ultimately success of many foreign goods in the EU.

Although the potential HAVARTI EU GI registration only directly impacts the global dairy industry and the EU market, it does underscore general issues all export-focused businesses should be aware of concerning GIs. Many businesses are unfamiliar with GIs, much less the extent to which GIs can impact their expansion and success in new foreign markets. GIs are granted legal protections in multiple countries for a wide array of goods, and can significantly impact a business’ foreign operations.

Below are some GI issues businesses should consider when entering new foreign markets:

Know the Practical Differences Between GIs and Trademarks. Before understanding what GIs restrictions a business may face in a foreign market, a business needs to recognize how GIs and trademarks differ. Unlike trademarks, GIs do not indicate or represent a individual business or their goods and services. They instead represent protections for the local conditions—natural or human-made (depending on the country)—that give products from a region their qualities and reputation. Based on these localized and natural characteristics, GIs cannot be extended, shared, or transferred to producers outside the region, and cannot be cancelled once registered. Further, in many countries that grant GIs legal protection such as the EU, member state governments, not individual producers or businesses, prosecute GI infringement claims. This means a foreign business can be assured that their unauthorized use of a registered GI in a foreign market will more likely subject them to a greater risk of legal action in that country compared to the threat of a lawsuit from a individual trademark owner.

The bottom line is that GIs prohibit exporting businesses from promoting and selling their goods in a particular country under a registered GI without much recourse.

Determine if an Export Market Recognize GIs—and to What Degree. After understanding the important differences between GIs and trademarks, businesses need to then evaluate whether the markets they wish to export to have GI protections and the extent of such protections. Nearly all countries recognize GIs for wines and alcoholic beverages through their World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. Under Articles 22 and 23 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), WTO member states are required to extend specific GI protections for wines and alcoholic beverages, and to a reduced degree other agricultural and natural products. Most common law jurisdictions (U.S., Australia, and Japan, etc.) generally only extend GI protections to wines and alcohol beverages based on their WTO commitments. Yet, many countries, including several substantial markets, have gone beyond TRIPS’ minimum standards by providing enhanced GI protections to non-wine and alcohol agricultural products, and even non-agricultural products. The EU, China, India, and Russia, among others, extend the same level of legal protection to all agricultural and natural product GIs. Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Switzerland even extend GI protections to human made goods such as handcrafts and textiles.

Determine if There are Existing GI Registrations for Your Goods. Once a business determines whether the market(s) they wish to export their goods possess GI protections, they must evaluate whether the names of the goods they wish to use on their goods and related promotions are registered GIs. To do so, businesses must examine national GI registers in such export market(s).

Below are GI registers for some of the world’s major GI jurisdictions.

Country

Governing Agency

National GI Register

Brazil

National Institute of Industrial Property (Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial -INPI)

INPI GI Registry

China

General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine

GI Product List

European Union

European Commission

Database of Origin and Registration (DOOR) Database

India

The Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks

GI Registry

Russia

Federal Institute of Industrial Property

Register of Appellation of Origin of Goods

What’s the Takeaway? As the nature of GI protections are evolving in many of the world’s major markets such as the EU, businesses need to be even more aware of GIs and how they impact their operations in foreign markets. Due to the significant implications GIs have on the labeling and marketing of exported goods, businesses should work with qualified counsel to ensure that they comply with existing GI registrations to ultimately take advantage of foreign markets opportunities.