USTR Makes IP a Focus of NAFTA Renegotiation

Earlier this month, the US Trade Representative (USTR), Robert Lighthizer, released a detailed and comprehensive summary of the negotiating objectives for the US’s forthcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The text of these objectives are available in a press release here.

In particular, the USTR seeks to add a substantive section on intellectual property, aimed at “ensur[ing] provisions governing intellectual property rights reflect a standard of protection similar to that found in U.S. law.” Listed objectives include securing greater compliance with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), particularly with respect to meeting enforcement obligations under TRIPS; eliminating government involvement in the violation of intellectual property rights, such as through cybertheft and piracy; and “prevent[ing] the undermining of market access for U.S. products through the improper use of a country’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications, including failing to ensure transparency and procedural fairness and protecting generic terms.” The last objective appears to be aimed at the increasing levels of protection that have been offered by some countries to products with geographical indications, such as champagne or Parmesan cheese.