If no one was smiling at the Commerce Ministry this week, blame the United States or, more specifically, Washington lobbyists for the pharmaceutical, software, movie and music industries. Despite progress made over the past year, the US annual review kept Thailand and nine other countries on the Special 301 Priority Watch List for intellectual property violations, a position this country has occupied since 2007.
This has led to some predictable head-scratching among ministers and officials responsible for enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) who were hoping for a status upgrade. That is because the report card, issued by the office of the US Trade Representative, does go out of its way to praise Thailand's commitment to improving IPR protection and enforcement. It also lauds the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, is encouraged by the launch of the National Centre for Intellectual Property Crime Prevention and praises the degree of cooperation between US rights holders and Thai enforcement agencies, notably customs and police.
So where is the big problem? Irritants such as the delay in legislation to outlaw camcording of motion pictures in cinemas together with legal mechanisms to criminalise copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting on the internet are already in the pipeline and should take effect later this year. A small fortune has been spent by the country's biggest cable and satellite provider to strengthen smartcard encryption to thwart unauthorised card-sharing piracy, which goes some way towards addressing another complaint, although it is true that some smaller operators do need to be brought into line. Other measures have been requested and, when acceded to, will no doubt spark fresh demands as this is a process in which the goalposts always seem to be on the move.
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