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Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk in Recognition of World Intellectual Property Day

Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative

Remarks in Recognition of World Intellectual Property Day
Washington, DC
May 5, 2011

* As Prepared for Delivery *

“Thank you, Secretary Locke. I also want to recognize additional distinguished participants, including David Kappos, James Pooley, and Todd Dickinson.

“I enjoyed participating in this event last year, and it is great to be with all of you again to celebrate World IP Day, as we recognize the importance of creativity and innovation to our economy and to American jobs.

“And I appreciate the invitation and opportunity to share with you how USTR is working to protect and promote American intellectual property through our trade policy.

“Of course, Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Conyers, along with the rest of the Judiciary Committee, have worked tirelessly to scrutinize and improve our intellectual property system.

“American innovation powers the world, and my colleagues and I in the Obama Administration agree with all of you that U.S. producers should be able to compete in markets that are not flooded with fake medicines, phony handbags, or stolen movies.

“That’s why at USTR, we use all the tools at our disposal – including our Special 301 report, which came out just a few days ago – to insist our trading partners play by the rules of trade and protect intellectual property against infringement.

“As you know, each year USTR’s Special 301 Report lists our trading partners who – despite their commitments and persistent engagement by the United States – are unwilling to provide for effective protection of intellectual property rights under their law and in practice.

“This year, for the first time, USTR is using the Special 301 Report to issue an open invitation to any trading partner on our Special 301 Priority Watch List or Watch List to negotiate an Action Plan that could provide a road map for their removal from the relevant list.

“These Action Plans will establish clear benchmarks and provide specific opportunities for the United States to offer its technical expertise.

“To be sure, negotiation of an Action Plan will not, by itself, change a country’s status in the Special 301 report.

“However, we have seen such Action Plans work in the past with trading partners like Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

“And we are cautiously optimistic that similar clearly-defined and focused collaboration between the United States and other trading partners will result in substantial improvements in laws and practices related to intellectual property rights.

“The Special 301 Report also identifies a wide range of concerns, including: China’s so-called ‘indigenous innovation’ policies that may unfairly disadvantage U.S. rights holders; the continuing challenges of Internet piracy in Canada, Spain, Italy and Russia; and ongoing, systemic IPR enforcement problems all over the world.

“As I’ve said, our doors are open. Our helping hand will remain extended. And we are more than ready to move forward with Action Plans that address any and all of these issues with our trading partners this year.

“Since we are being hosted here in the halls of Congress, let me say a few words about our pending trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. All three of these agreements include state-of-the art IP protections that are pivotal for American firms, including small businesses.

“Specifically, these agreements: strengthen deterrence against commercial scale piracy; curb digital copyright theft, particularly over the Internet; protect our patents against arbitrary revocation; protect valuable U.S. brands with enhanced trademark protections; and strengthen IP enforcement at the countries’ borders.

“In fact, the Obama Administration is incorporating IPR protections into all of our pending trade agreements.

“Specifically, we fought hard for them when we negotiated the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement last year. ACTA is the first agreement of its kind to both require strong rules on the books and to promote international cooperation that will enable best practices to spread more quickly and make IP enforcement provisions even more effective.

“And we are also pursuing the highest standards of intellectual property protection in our Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, in order to secure the predictability and flexibility that the digital era requires.

“As we celebrate World IP Day, we should be mindful that creative and innovative U.S. industries need new markets to grow, not only for the jobs and opportunities they provide here at home, but also to contribute uniquely American solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“For example, IP is critical to the kind of innovation we need to build a 21st century clean energy economy in the United States, so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make millions of American families and businesses less vulnerable to an ever-fluctuating oil market.

“By working together – with Congress, the Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Organization and AIPLA – we can continue to protect and promote American innovation that solves problems and supports jobs in the United States and around the globe. I look forward to working with you. Thank you.”