I am happy to announce that I have the honor of publishing an article in the European Intellectual Property Review (EIPR) to be released this month. Titled “The Effectiveness of the Trans Pacific Partnership’s Internet Service Provider Copyright Safe Harbour Scheme,” the article examines the Trans Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) proposed copyright safe harbor provisions for Internet Service Providers (ISP), its implications on existing TPP member state ISP safe harbor regimes, and rights holders’ abilities to enforce rights in their works online in such states.
Today I was recognized by one of my favorite trade and export-related blogs, Shipping Solutions‘ International Trade Blog, as being an Export Thought Leader on Twitter. I was flattered to be listed among other persons and organizations I highly admire in the export world, including Becky Park DeStigter (@IntlEntreprenr), The International Trade Administration (@TradeGov), U.S. Customs & Border Protection (@CustomsBorder), and other distinguished people and organizations.
A link to the blog article can be found here.
Thank you Shipping Solutions for the recognition. It is truly an honor!
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.
U.S. President Barack Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced last Tuesday that the U.S. and the European Union (E.U.) would be entering into free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations following nearly two years of consultative talks and evaluation. Identified as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the potential FTA will a have a substantial impact on the world economy as it would liberalize nearly a third of the world’s trade. It may also have substantial intellectual property (IP) implications for IP owners if the U.S. and E.U. can overcome ongoing disagreements over international IP protection reforms.
Initially, there were low expectations that any substantial international IP reforms would result from the agreement. The U.S. and the E.U.’s High-Level Working Group on the TTIP stated in their final report last year (available here) that both parties should “address a limited number of significant IPR issues of interest to either side, without prejudice to the outcome” in their FTA negotiations. Further, news outlets reported that there were no plans for the U.S. and E.U. to harmonize their IP systems.
However, just before the February 12th TTIP announcement, U.S. congressional representatives sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk identifying priorities the U.S. Congress wants the TTIP to address, including strong IP rights protection for U.S. industries. Sent by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Senate Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the letter identified certain E.U. policies towards foreign IP as being substantial barriers to trade that should be improved. Particularly, the letter demanded that the TTIP establish measures to address EU policies that undermine the value of foreign IP protection—including pricing, reimbursement and regulatory transparency. Additionally, the senators identified geographical indications, trademark-like protections given to certain goods from specific regions such as CHAMPAGNE for sparkling wine and ROQUEFORT for cheese, as impeding the ability for U.S. agricultural businesses to compete in the E.U. market.
Lastly, the letter demanded that the TTIP should not undermine the U.S.’ ability to achieve high levels of IP protection in other U.S. FTA negotiations. In enacted and proposed FTAs such as the U.S.-Australia FTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership respectively, the U.S. established IP protections beyond minimum international standards established under World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)—known as TRIPS Plus standards, pertaining to a wide range of IP rights and enforcement.
Despite U.S. calls to address international IP reforms, it is unclear to what degree the U.S. and E.U. can find common ground to enhance international IP protections in their respective countries/blocs. This does not even mention the ability for the U.S. to establish TRIPS Plus IP standards with the E.U. as in other U.S. FTAs. Positive signs towards the potential of meaningful international IP protection reforms between the U.S. and E.U. can be seen in recent cooperative efforts including joint U.S.-E.U. online IP enforcement initiatives, and the establishment of the Cooperative Patent Classification system for harmonized patent document classifications that will be operational this year. Further, the German government, the E.U.’s largest economy, has called for the TTIP to be a fully comprehensive agreement. However, the E.U. Parliament’s rejection of the U.S.-backed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement last July showed that the E.U. is potentially wary of considering enhanced international IP protections that would likely result from a comprehensive FTA with the U.S. Time will tell whether the U.S. and E.U. can established enhanced international IP protections.
What are your thoughts on TTIP and its potential for international IP reforms? How will it impact you or your business?
The ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has produced unexpected and potentially harmful consequences for U.S. copyright owners. Antigua announced last week its plans to establish a website selling media and software protected under U.S. copyright law—and will do so without obtaining permission of its copyright owners or paying any form of royalties.
Surprisingly, Antigua has the right to establish this pirating website under international law. It won a 2007 World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement against the U.S. (Dispute Settlement 25 – DS 25), where the U.S.’ blocking of Antiguan online gambling sites from U.S. customers was found to be a violation of the U.S.’ General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) commitments. Consequently, Antigua was granted the right to suspend its WTO obligations to the U.S. under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This has allowed Antigua to legally sell pirated U.S. copyright content in amounts not exceeding $21 million annually until the U.S. removes its blockade of Antiguan gambling websites or pays compensation. As of yet, the U.S. has done neither.
To Antigua’s credit, it has yet to enforce its entitled remedies in the six years since DS 25’s ruling. According to reports, Antigua’s main goal is not to become a copyright pirate—it simply wants the U.S. to comply with DS 25. Yet, the U.S.’ continued failure to do so has made Antigua feel that it has no other choice but to open the pirating website to pressure the U.S. into compliance.
Ultimately, U.S. copyright owners will pay the price for the U.S. government’s failure to comply with DS 25. Reports are that the U.S. government will compensate U.S. copyright owners for lost royalties who are infringed from Antigua’s pirate website. However, international copyright law gives U.S. copyright owners legal protections beyond mere royalties. Qualifying U.S. copyright owners have the right under both U.S. copyright law (17 U.S.C. § 602(a)(2)) and Antiguan copyright law (2003 Copyright Act) to restrict movements of their works across borders for commercial use, namely to prevent the unauthorized trade in protected works known as parallel importation or grey goods. As controlling the availability and flow of protected content is crucial to capitalizing on foreign markets opportunities, U.S. copyright owners whose works are infringed through the Antiguan pirate website will be harmed by their inability to control the flow or distribution of their works, with no apparent recourse or compensation under international, U.S., or Antiguan law.
As any business who has foreign IP protection concerns know, protecting IP rights abroad is hard enough even with protections under international law. The developments in the U.S.-Antiguan trade dispute are harmful beyond mere infringement as they act to undermine what minimum protections U.S. copyrighted works enjoy abroad under international law, and according to commentators, they help to establish a negative precedent that could lead to similar outcomes in larger trade disputes with potentially more severe damages for U.S. copyright owners. Time will tell whether this will come true.
What do you think of the U.S.-Antiguan trade dispute? Will you be affected by it and how?
Export regulations have been in the news recently as U.S. officials pledged during the December U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade to relax technology export controls on exports to China, and the Department of Commerce is currently evaluating several export control reforms. Although these developments may allow U.S. businesses to more easily access foreign markets, it also underscores the need for businesses to understand how their exports, and particularly their intellectual property (IP) licensing, is regulated by U.S. export regulations and what steps they should take to ensure export compliance. Beyond avoiding fines and potential criminal charges, ensuring U.S. export compliance can help businesses develop effective IP licensing procedures to reduce challenges to their international operations and realize foreign market opportunities.
Ensuring U.S. export compliance in IP licensing requires an understanding of what U.S. export regulations are and what issues should be evaluated. With the exception of certain goods and technologies, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) establishes U.S. export controls through the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which provides requirements and restrictions for IP licenses based specifically on a license’s commodity, software, or technology (Items) and the countries to which the items is being licensed. Particularly, the following four issues should be evaluated when licensing IP:
(1) Is your license subject to EAR? Many acts that would not on first glance be considered an export may be subject to EAR. Generally, any Item transmitted from the U.S. to a foreign country or foreign citizen is regulated by EAR. Not surprising, shipments of U.S. Items from the U.S. to foreign countries are subject to EAR. However, as any transmission of Items to foreign countries or foreign citizens is subject to EAR, the licensing of protected content or technology uploaded online for download abroad or by foreign nationals in the U.S. may be subject to these regulations. Such transmissions also include oral briefings, telephone calls, faxes, and e-mails containing Items to foreign countries and foreign citizens both in the U.S. and abroad. By encompassing these multiple activities, your licensing of copyrighted material, patented technology, or even trade secrets, may be subject to EAR.
(2) What is your EAR classification? If your IP license is subject to EAR, determining what your export compliance requirements are depends on the license’s Items. Such Items and their corresponding export requirements are obtained through identifying the Items’ EAR classifications. BIS classifies all Items for EAR through Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCN), which are available on its Commerce Control List. Establishing a licensed Item’s ECCN number helps to determine whether a licensor needs to obtain an export license prior to licensing.
Often, businesses and rights holders determine which ECCN matches their licensed content or technology for export compliance purposes. However, it is always worthwhile for a licensor to submit a request to BIS to properly classify their licensed content or technology to ensure export compliance.
(3) Where are you licensing to? In addition to a license’s Items, the country to which the license is being made to establishes what restrictions and requirements a IP licensor will subject to. Those well-versed on current world events might find some of EAR’s restrictions self-evident, yet each country provides different sets of requirements and restrictions for IP licenses, often those one may generally not associate with some of the U.S.’ largest trade partners. Not surprisingly, licensing of IP to Canada, arguably the U.S.’ strongest ally, is exempt from most export licensing requirements, while licensing to countries perceived to be a geopolitical security risk or subject to the U.S. embargoes, such as China and North Korea respectively, may be prohibited. However, licensing of content or technology to some of the U.S.’ largest and most dependable trading partners may pose unexpected export requirements. For example, licensing radiation transport calculation and modeling software to Brazil, one of the U.S.’ top 15 trading partners, is subject to export licensing requirements, while relatively smaller trading partners such as Turkey are exempt from some of these licensing requirements.
As a result of EAR’s country-specific and often divergent export control requirements, licensors should consider the export control consequences of where they decide to license their items to when entering into licensing agreements.
(4) Are there any additional considerations? It is important to note that EAR does not regulate all export controls. Foreign embargoes establish export restrictions beyond EAR, which are governed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC), and the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Commerce may maintain their own individual export restrictions. As a result, it is important for licensors to work with their counsel and government authorities to determine whether their IP licensing is subject to these additional export restrictions.
What’s the takeaway? So what lessons should licensors take away from examining these export control issues? Being conscious of the type of licensing being conducted, the content or technology being licensed, and where such items are being licensed to can help ensure compliance with U.S. export controls and ultimately realizing foreign market opportunities.
Are there additional export control issues you face in licensing your IP?
Special thanks to Jennifer Jolley for her assistance.