China tops 2009 IPR offender list

South Korea dropped for the first time

BEIJING--The U.S. Trade Representative on Thursday put China atop its annual list of offenders of intellectual property rights (IPR) citing concerns that Beijing had loosened its piracy crackdown in the ongoing financial crisis.

Where pirated DVDs of Hollywood movies largely disappeared from Beijing's streets during the Olympics last summer, touts and vendors selling illegal discs of new releases for about $1 each have returned en masse.

In releasing its annual report on the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights protection by U.S. trading partners, China and Russia topped the priority watch list of offenders that also included Canada for the first time and left off South Korea for the first time.

"I am particularly troubled by reports that Chinese officials are urging more lenient enforcement of IPR laws, motivated by the financial crisis and the need to maintain jobs," said U.S.T.R., Ambassador Ron Kirk in a statement. "China needs to strengthen its approach to IPR protection and enforcement, not weaken it."

Twelve countries comprise this year's priority watch list: China, Russia, Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela.  These countries will be the subjects of the U.S.T.R.'s focus in the coming year.

South Korea was removed from the list "in recognition of the significant improvements it has made during the past year, and the Korean Government’s policy direction of continuing to place a priority on improving its IPR regime," the office of the U.S.T.R. said in a statement from Washington, D.C.
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