04/30/2018 09:24 EDT | Updated 04/30/2018 09:25 EDT

Canada Failing At Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights, U.S. Says

Canada was added to a priority watch list that includes China, India and Russia.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks during a meeting hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump with governors and members of Congress at the White House, April 12, 2018.

The United States on Friday added Canada to a priority watch list of countries that it says have failed to enforce intellectual property rights, citing concerns over poor border control and pharmaceutical practices.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative moved Canada from its watch list to its priority watch list, which includes 11 other countries including China, India and Russia.

In a news release, the office criticized Canada for "failing to make progress on overcoming important IP enforcement challenges" such as border enforcement, particularly when it comes to inspecting or detaining counterfeit or pirated goods shipped through Canada.

It also cited procedures related to pharmaceuticals, copyright protection, and inadequate transparency regarding the protection of indications of origin.

The office's priority watch list includes countries that the U.S. deems to have failed to protect or enforce intellectual property rights or otherwise denied market access to American creators.

'A top priority of the Trump Administration'

The news release said the countries on the list would be the subject of what it called "intense bilateral engagement" during the coming year.

"This report sends a clear signal to our trading partners that the protection of Americans' intellectual property rights is a top priority of the Trump Administration," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

Reuters Staff / Reuters
Chrystia Freeland speaks with reporters after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss NAFTA autos negotiations in Washington, D.C., April 25, 2018.

The report comes as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been engaged in heated talks over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A Canadian close to those talks has said intellectual property is one of several issues that remain unresolved, along with dispute settlement and the U.S. push for a sunset clause.

The Canadian government unveiled its long-awaited intellectual property strategy on Thursday, after committing $85 million over five years towards the initiative in its most recent budget.

Rebecca Cook / Reuters
Minister of Innovation Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains introduces Blackberry CEO John Chen (not pictured) at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Jan. 15, 2018.

In launching the measures, Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains called intellectual property the most valuable business asset in the knowledge economy.

The government's plan includes amending laws to eliminate barriers surrounding intellectual property, as well as better tools to expand its use.

Ottawa also hopes to address what it calls "bad behaviour" in the country's existing IP regime with help from legislative amendments to curb intimidation and inappropriate "trolling" of some businesses by patent holders.

Bains did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Canada's placement on the priority watch list.

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