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Putting COVID IP Waiver and IP Piracy in Context: Consumers and Producers, Pirates and Police Officers

The Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) 2021 Special 301 Report, published late last month, brought into sharp relief one of the ongoing issues the United States has with China. The country was again listed on its “Priority Watch List” in this annual review of the state of intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement in the United States’ international trading partners, and the report explained that the United States remains unsatisfied with China’s failure to grant IP protection and enforcement to foreign rights holders. On the surface, very little is surprising about the USTR’s statement concerning China’s approach to the enforcement of IP rights. By now, China’s failures in the context of IP enforcement are a well-known refrain in the Western media. But dig beneath the surface, and the statement raises a multiplicity of issues that have gone unaddressed. Which IP rights are at issue? Whose IP rights are not being enforced? Should one country enforce the IP rights of the citizens of another country? If so, how and in what way does it do that? Last but not least, has the United States enforced the IP rights of the citizens of other countries?

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