(Communicated by the Justice Ministry Spokesman)
On March 2, 2008 the Ministry of Justice submitted a statement on intellectual property protection in Israel to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as part of USTR’s annual "Special 301" review process. In the submission the Government of Israel defends its intellectual property law regime as adequate, effective, in conformance with all relevant international obligations and requests removal of Israel from any intellectual property "watch list" maintained by USTR under the Special 301 process.
Section 182 of the 1974 Trade Act empowers USTR to identify and rank foreign countries, which in its opinion, deny to US commercial interests "[a]dequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection." The names of such countries are subsequently published on the USTR’s annual Watch List under the following principal rankings: "Priority Foreign Country"; "Priority Watch List"; and "Watch List". Priority Foreign Countries are potentially liable to dispute resolution actions, whereas placement on the Priority Watch List or Watch List indicates that USTR believes that particular problems exist in that country with respect to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for American commercial interests relying on intellectual property.
Placement on any of the watch lists does not necessarily mean that a country is in breach of a treaty obligation, or that it will be subject to trade or other sanctions, rather the lists are primarily used as a policy tool to soft pressure countries into implementing intellectual property policies that would favor certain American commercial interests.
In 2007 Israel was placed on the Priority Watch List, largely due to pressures from the research based pharmaceutical industry as part of their global competition with the generic drugs based pharmaceutical industry. Allegations against Israel in the field of copyright were also lodged by a trade association representing those industries. Similar allegations have been repeated in 2008.
The Government of Israel maintains that its intellectual property law regime, including acquisition, maintenance and enforcement of intellectual property rights, is modern, effective and exceeds uniform minimum standards set forth in multilateral treaties regulating large aspects of intellectual property standards. Intellectual property law provides for monopolies limited in time and scope with respect to, inter alia, inventions, trademarks, and works of copyright, such as computer software, films and recorded music.
Upon expiration of an intellectual property right the underlying invention or work of copyright automatically becomes part of the public domain and may be freely used by the public and built upon to make new inventions or works of copyright. Finding the right balance between a monopoly rights that encourages and rewards technological and artistic developments and the prevention of overly broad monopoly rights is largely a question of economic and social policy. International treaties in the field of intellectual property set forth minimum monopoly standard levels that contracting states agree to maintain on their territory. Beyond those minimal standards member states are free to set higher monopoly levels if they deem it in their interests to do so. Israel is a member of most international intellectual property treaties and maintains monopoly standards that often exceed the minimal standards set in those treaties.
Despite Israel’s 2007 ranking on the watch lists, no claim has ever been commenced against Israel by USTR alleging failure to maintain a treaty obligation, and it is the position of the Government of Israel that its intellectual property regime fully conforms to its treaty obligations. Accordingly, maintaining Israel on any of the watch lists is unjustified.
The allegations and counter allegations from the pharmaceutical field as well as claims by the copyright interests and the statement of the Government of Israel can be seen at the following URL’s.
- Israel Ministry of Justice
- Generic Pharmaceutical Association
- Israel Manufacturers Association
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
- International Intellectual Property Association (copyright)