WASHINGTON — Apparel and footwear brands applauded a new intellectual property protection agreement the U.S. reached with Honduras on Wednesday that’s aimed at strengthening the enforcement and protection of counterfeits and piracy in the Central American country.
As part of a new “work plan,” Honduras has made several commitments to crack down on counterfeiting and digital piracy and strengthen its prosecution against the illegal activity.
“Today’s agreement is an important success for the fair treatment of American businesses and workers, including the dairy, creative industries, telecommunications, textiles and apparel industries,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. “Honduras is to be commended for the new commitments it has made to advancing intellectual property protection and enforcement, and for the collaborative approach it has taken to resolving these issues with us.”
Froman told reporters on a press call that Honduras, which is a partner in the Central American Free Trade Agreement, has made “20 specific obligations” laid out in a “work plan” to strengthen and enhance IPR enforcement and protection.
The Honduran government has broadly committed to “substantially” increasing the number of prosecutors specializing in criminal IPR enforcement by the end of March and to publishing quarterly reports on prosecution activity to promote more transparency and accountability. One commitment important to the apparel and footwear industry includes a pledge to review draft measures to improve border enforcement though implementation of a customs trademark registry and the reactivation of an “interagency commission to combat piracy and counterfeiting.”
“IPR infringements affect all of our members’ brands,” the American Apparel & Footwear Association said. “Their competitiveness is highly dependent upon the global protection of the intellectual property embedded in their designs, their brands and their images. We are pleased to see the government of Honduras make concrete commitments to increase the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including the reactivation of an interagency anticounterfeiting task force.”
AAFA’s members have reported that they receive little support or cooperation from Honduran enforcement authorities and prosecutors, according to a public submission the trade group made to USTR for an upcoming annual report identifying countries that do not provide effective protection or enforcement of IPR. “There seem few options for effective IPR enforcement actions, which is disappointing since Honduras is an FTA partner,” AAFA said.
The work plan also specifically addresses new enforcement and protection for signal piracy in cable and satellite transmissions, as well as more clarity in the area of geographical indications on generic products.
“This is another step in our effort to ensure not only that we’re negotiating the highest-quality agreements and making those obligations fully enforceable, but that we’re actually enforcing them using all of the tools at our disposal,” Froman said.