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

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.  Following extensive research and analysis, the Report placed eleven (11) countries on the priority watch list and twenty-three (23) on the watch list. Thailand remains on the Priority Watch List in 2016.

The Report indicates that although steps have been taken to improve IPR protection and enforcement in Thailand, including the launch of the National Intellectual IP Center of Enforcement in 2013 and several legislative measures passed since 2014, these attempts have proven ineffective and unsuccessful.  For example, in 2014 the Thai government introduced several amendments to the Customs Act and Copyright Act in an attempt to decrease the volume of illegal goods transiting through the country and to diminish unauthorized cam-cording in Thai theaters.  Unfortunately, the government failed to consider concerns expressed by foreign governments on prior drafts of the amendments.  As a result, the amendments omitted a much-needed landlord liability provision, failed to provide proper enforcement against unauthorized camcording, and did not set forth adequate protections against the circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs).

In addition to the above issues, another Copyright Act amendment designed to introduce an option for right holders to obtain a court order to force online service providers to take down infringing content has resulted in a lack of clarity in the operation of the notice-and-takedown procedures. Right holders also express concerns regarding pending legislation imposing content quota restrictions and are concerned about potential unintended effects of pending data and cyber security laws.  The Report indicates that it will be critical for Thai authorities to engage closely with foreign governments and industry to ensure that these and future legislative measures effectively improve IPR protection and enforcement in the country.

Other concerns include a backlog in pending patent applications, widespread use of unlicensed software in both the public and private sectors, growing Internet-based copyright piracy, rampant trademark counterfeiting, lengthy civil IPR proceedings and low civil damages, and extensive cable and satellite signal theft.  Furthermore, Thailand continues to struggle to provide an effective system for protecting against the unfair commercial use and unauthorized disclosure of data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products.

In conclusion, the Report urges Thailand to do more to prioritize IPR enforcement and to address longstanding organizational challenges in the country.

This post was written by Lisa L. Mueller and Rikki A. Hullinger, Ph.D.

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