OTTAWA — The United States is crediting tighter rules in the new North American free-trade deal for its decision to move Canada off a list of countries that it says are the worst violators of intellectual-property rights.
Not that Canada is completely in the clear, however: the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is keeping Canada on a lower-level "watch list" over continuing concerns about online piracy and pharmaceuticals patents.
Canada was first added to the so-called priority watch list last year along with 11 other countries — including China, India and Russia — that the U.S. deems the worst offenders when it comes to intellectual property.
The U.S. trade office at the time criticized Canada for failing to crack down on counterfeit and pirated goods at the border as well as expressing concerns about drugs and copyright protection, particularly online.
It promised what it called "intense bilateral engagement" to address the concerns. That coincided with negotiations on the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade deal, including new intellectual-property provisions.
In a report on Thursday, U.S. officials specifically described Canada's agreement to these provisions in the trade deal as "the most significant step forward" for this country's protection of intellectual property rights over the past year.
"Once implemented, these commitments will substantially improve the IP environment in Canada, including with respect to areas where there have been long-standing concerns," reads the trade-office report.
Some intellectual-property experts have criticized those provisions, suggesting the deal will benefit U.S. companies to the detriment of Canadian industry.
The U.S. report also credits tougher penalties in court cases and a recent crackdown on counterfeit goods at a particular Toronto-area mall as evidence of a tougher stance on violators.
Despite this, the report said U.S. officials remain concerned about weak protections at the border and online against counterfeit or pirated goods as well as proposed changes to Canadian laws around drug patents.
It concludes that U.S. officials will monitor Canada's implementation of the intellectual-property provisions in the new trade deal "and looks forward to working closely with Canada in the coming year to address priority IP issues."