An Overview of the USTR’s 2016 Special 301 Report on the State of IPR in Venezuela

In this post, the BRIC Wall Blog continues to examine the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2016 Special 301 Report (Report) released on April 12, 2016. The Report reviewed the state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement in U.S. trading partners around the world.   After extensive research and analysis, Venezuela remains one of eleven (11) countries on the priority watch list for 2016. 

The Report indicates that the combination of Venezuela’s formal withdrawal from the Andean Community, the reinstatement of its 1956 Industrial Property Law, provisions set forth in Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, and international treaty obligations still in effect has created legal ambiguity for IPR in the country.  Venezuela’s Autonomous Intellectual Property Service (SAPI) has not issued a new patent since 2007, and has substantially increased patent filing and maintenance fees since May of 2015.  Brand owners further report that SAPI regularly approves and publishes applications for trademarks that are similar or nearly identical to registered marks, and that trademark opposition procedures that do exist to combat these issues are slow and ineffective.   Additionally, Venezuela lacks an effective system for protecting against the unfair commercial use and unauthorized disclosure of data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products. 

Venezuela also continues to struggle with widespread counterfeiting and online piracy.  In the past year, infringing copies of movies found to be contributing to online piracy were traced back to unauthorized camcording in Venezuelan theaters.  In spite of these problems, prosecution of IP crimes is rare and penalties in place are insufficient to deter counterfeiters.  In view of these issues, The Property Rights Alliance’s 2015 Intellectual Property Rights Index ranked Venezuela 125 of the 129 countries evaluated and the World Economic Forum’s 2015-2016 Competitiveness Report ranked Venezuela last among all 140 countries evaluated with respect to IPR protection.  Despite these consistently low rankings, Venezuela has made no effort to improve IPR in the country in 2015 and as such remains on the priority watch list for the 2016 Special 301 Report.      

This report was written by Lisa Mueller and Rikki Hullinger.

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