Thu, Jan 20, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan removed from `Special 301' list

`MAKING PROGRESS' The US Trade Representative downgraded Taiwan's status on a list of IPR rights violators, saying that the government's efforts were commendable

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) on Tuesday announced it would remove Taiwan from the "Special 301" Priority Watch List and place it on the less stringent Watch List in recognition of the nation's progress in protecting intellectual property rights (IPR).

In the report, the USTR said Taiwan had made "significant progress" in cracking down on commercial piracy and had bolstered its IPR-protection legislation over the past year.

Taiwan has been on the "priority watch list" for four consecutive years.

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said that Taiwan's efforts in cracking down on piracy over the past year had been commendable.

The progress Taiwan has made in improving its IPR environment includes the passage of a revision to the Copyright Law (著作權法) last year, as well as the provision of IPR-specific training for judges and prosecutors, the planned creation of a dedicated IPR court and increased policing of the problem on Taiwan's streets and at its ports.

However, Zoellick also said that Taiwan could do a better job in protecting the data exclusivity of pharmaceutical products, since the US thinks that IPR threats still exist in the area.

Pharmaceutical data exclusivity refers to the legal protection of the results of efficacy and safety tests conducted by pharmaceutical firms before they receive government approval for the drugs.

The report also suggested that Taiwan should continue to strengthen IPR laws pertaining to agrochemical products, and crack down on unauthorized Internet music-file downloading and other commercial piracy.

Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生), director-general of the Intellectual Property Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, expressed his gratitude for the USTR's decision. At a press conference held yesterday, Tsai said the office will work to remove Taiwan from all of the IPR watch lists this year.

"We are working on addressing the issues that concern the US ... with amendments to related laws that are expected to be passed, I'm confident that Taiwan can be removed completely from the Watch List," Tsai said.

Concerns over protection of the data exclusivity of pharmaceutical products, for example, may be resolved soon, with the legislature last week preliminarily passing amendments to the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law (藥事法) drafted by the Department of Health.

Tsai said the new amendments grant a five-year protection period to test and study results for new drugs. The amendments also provide a three-year protection period for improvements to existing products.

Hoping that the USTR will remove Taiwan from the Special 301 watch list altogether in April when it conducts its annual review, the ministry will speed up drafting of laws to regulate online IPR infringement, Tsai added.

As the government has stopped using the Export Management Systems to screen for pirated disks, Tsai said the office will transfer the budget and resources into the training of a task force to clamp down on physical and virtual piracy, hoping to lower Taiwan's piracy rate from 43 percent to under 40 percent this year.

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