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Office of Policy and International Affairs: Trade - Special 301

The USPTO will continue to play an important role, as it has in the past, in the annual Special 301 Review , as established under the 1988 Trade Act, and subsequent Special Out-of-Cycle Reviews (OCRs). The annual review of roughly 60-70 countries is conducted February - May 1 of each year. USPTO experts review the substantive intellectual property (IP) areas and IP enforcement for each of the countries under consideration.

The USPTO works closely with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other USG agencies to review IP policies and actions by 60-70 governments to assess progress and, where needed, devise near term actions for certain key countries to curb intellectual property theft and help strengthen intellectual property protection worldwide.

The USPTO will continue its efforts to provide ongoing and extensive expertise to USTR and other USG agencies on the IP regimes, including analysis of relevant laws, of the countries under review. This will be accomplished through various USG interagency meetings, extensive consultations with private sector IP interests and U.S. embassies, as well as drafting of papers and comments on the IP regimes under review.

The “Special 301” provisions of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, require the USTR to identify foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or fair and equitable market access for U.S. persons that rely on intellectual property protection. Once the foreign countries are identified, the USTR is required to decide which, if any, should be designated a Priority Foreign Country, which is one that:

(1) has the most onerous and egregious acts, policies, and practices which have the greatest adverse impact (actual or potential) on the relevant U.S. products; and

(2) is not engaged in good faith negotiations or making significant progress in negotiations to address these problems.

If a trading partner is identified as a Priority Foreign Country, USTR must decide within 30 days whether to initiate an investigation of those acts, policies and practices that were the basis for identifying the country as a Priority Foreign Country.

In addition to identifying Priority Foreign Countries as required by the statute, USTR also uses the Special 301 report to identify “Priority Watch List” and “Watch List” countries or economies. Trading partners who fall under the Priority Watch List are those that do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection or enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection. Trading partners on the Watch List merit bilateral attention to address IPR problems. Certain other countries with serious IP-related problems are subject to another part of the statute, Section 306 monitoring, because of previous bilateral agreements reached with the United States to address specific problems raised in earlier reports. The USPTO plays an active role in the interagency group that advises the USTR on the implementation of Special 301.

Copies of the 2006 Special 301 reports can be found at:

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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Last Modified: 10/2/2013 9:11:12 AM