The USTR 301 Report 2015 and the Philippines

Last May 1, the US Trade Representative released the 2015 Special 301 Report. an annual review of the state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement of U.S. trading partners around the world, For many years, the Philippines was on the Watch List of this report until 2013. By 2014, the Philippines was taken off the list, a good news for the country and its technology-based investors, local and multinational.

Here is the cover of the 2015 Report and the Asian economies that are still on the watch list. I copy-pasted on paint the cover and the table of contents.

1

Somehow it was a big news in the Philippines as almost all major media outlets here have reported it. BusinessWorld reported,

US laws allow Washington to impose economic sanctions on trading partners or eliminate tariff perks if they fail to improve IPR protection regimes.

The Philippines was first tagged in 1989 and was on the watch list since 1994. It was taken out of the watch list last year, with the USTR citing improved Philippine government commitment to protect IPR “and the results”, even as it noted that “significant challenges remain.”

In the 2015 report posted on its web site, the USTR cited positive developments in the Philippines that kept it out of the watch list.

2

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in its statement said that it expected

“increased volume of foreign direct investments by US high-technology manufacturers due to the delisting of the Philippines from the Special 301 Watch List.

“Many US manufacturers of high-technology products would be encouraged to locate here because of USTR findings that Philippine laws provide adequate protection of intellectual property rights,” said Alfredo M. Yao, president of the country’s biggest business organization. “The delisting would signal effective enforcement against counterfeiting, piracy and other IPR violations.

Good. IPR, like physical properties, need protection. Not all ideas and composition are the same, some are more useful and creative than others, they need protection. Also, most ideas are too common and a rehash of old ideas, or are next to useless, they do not need protection because their supply worldwide are unlimited and hence, demand for these ideas are very low.

Meanwhile, during the media briefing for the APEC 2015 Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) in Boracay island, Aklan, last May 22 this year, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Laura Del Rosario emphasized the value of strong IPR protection to attract more high value investments. In this report, she said that

“companies especially those do a lot of innovations won’t invest in an economy which do not have a strong intellectual property protection measures in place. If you invent something, if you innovate on something, why should you sell it in that economy if you know that somebody will copy it? Certainly, they would go to those which have very strong intellectual property coverage and at the same time allow innovation.”

The foundation of a free society is private property rights, rights that are protected, respected and enforced. And among the main functions of government is to protect private property rights.

Your car is yours alone, you may lend it to your friends, rent it out, or use it exclusively for your family. Or sell it. No other people can say, “his car is also mine, I can use it anytime, anywhere I want, for free. If he protests, I can smack his head.”

The same protection to physical property should be accorded to non-physical or intellectual property. Your song composition is yours alone. You may share it to others for free or for a fee. This way, you can do full time work as song composer or singer/performer. The people benefit from the beauty of your songs and they are willing to pay to listen to your songs, either online or on live performance.

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