Officials confident Taiwan will get off `Special 301' list

By Jessie Ho and Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Thu, Oct 14, 2004 - Page 1

Taiwan may be removed from the US' list of intellectual property rights violators as early as the end of the month, a government official said yesterday.

"We have made significant improvement in protecting intellectual property rights, and hope the US government appreciates our efforts," Jack Lu (盧文祥), deputy director-general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Intellectual Property Office, said yesterday.

Lu recently returned from Washington, where he and a delegation met with Charles Freeman, assistant US trade representative for China affairs; Eric Smith, president of the International Intellectual Property Alliance; and associations that represent producers of software, movies, recordings, publications and entertainment.

During the meetings, Lu gave briefings about the progress Taiwan has made in improving the intellectual property protection environment. One major achievement was the revision of the Copyright Law (著作權法), which provides more protection to digital-content publications and further clarifies the definition of copyright infringement. The law was passed in August and took effect last month.

Taiwan's bid gained a boost from the Washington-based US-Taiwan Business Council, which on Tuesday issued a press release calling for Taiwan's removal from the list in view of recent progress in fighting piracy.

"Taiwan has made significant headway over the past 12 months in protecting intellectual property rights," the release said.

In addition to amendments to the Copyright Law, the council also cited several efforts Taiwan made, including providing IPR-specific training for judges and prosecutors, the planned creation of a dedicated IPR court, as well as increasing policing of the problem on Taiwan's streets and at its ports.

The statement came on the eve of the publication by the US Trade Representative's office of an official notice in the Federal Register asking for comments by interested groups and individuals on whether Taiwan should be removed from the priority list. Taiwan was put on the list in April 2001 and has remained on it ever since.

The listing in the Federal Register, a compendium of government regulations, occurred yesterday. It is the official opening action in the so-called out-of-cycle review, which is usually taken six months after the annual Special 301 list is announced in the spring. In other words, the result could come out in the end of the month or early next month.

The US-Taiwan Business Council also called for the resumption of negotiations on a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The talks were broken off by Washington in late 2002 after they failed to produce movement toward resolving a number of trade disagreements between the two sides, in effect suspending all high-level economic contacts between Washington and Taiwan.

"Taiwan has made progress on each of the four issues of concern to the US: agriculture, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and intellectual property rights protection," the council said.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) also expressed hope for the two governments to resume TIFA negotiations soon.