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Lunch on international IPR trends

The ECCT's Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) committee hosted a lunch on the topic "Recent international IPR trends - Taiwan's IPR status, challenges and future prospects". The event featured panellists Hong Shu-ming (洪淑敏局長), Director-General of the Taiwan Intellectual Property Rights Office (TIPO), Ministry Of Economic Affairs and George CC Chen (陳家駿律師), Vice Chairman of the Taiwan Association of Information Technology & Intellectual Property, and Senior Counsel at KPMG Law Firm.

At the event panellists discussed on the major challenges facing Taiwan in achieving stronger IPR protection in line with the best international practices and standards and what this means for the international business community. Each of the panellists gave a speech on topics including Taiwan's enforcement of IP rights, Taiwan's policy and directions to enhance IP protection and enforcement and future developments to balance IP rights and other interests, achievements and challenges in diverse areas relating to copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and other IP issues. After their speeches, the floor was opened to questions from the audience, moderated by IPR committee Co-Chair, Christina Chao.

In her speech, DG Hong stressed the growing importance of safeguarding intellectual property rights if Taiwan is to move up the value chain. She noted some of the progress Taiwan has made progress in recent years towards improving IP protection. For example, in 2016 authorities took steps towards the establishment of a pharmaceutical patent linkage system, which is expected to enhance protection of innovative pharmaceuticals by preventing market approval of generic competitors to patent-protected medicines.

In October 2017 the TIPO submitted a bill to the Legislative Yuan which features a total of 93 amendments and 17 new articles to the Copyright Act. Among other amendments the bill redefines the types of activities that require permission to show or play copyrighted material. The TIPO has also recently proposed amendments to improve the protection of trademarks.
DG Hong said that authorities had taken a lot of these steps in order to prepare Taiwan to apply to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. However, she noted that now that the United States had withdrawn from the agreement, many of the IPR chapters that were in the original agreement have been removed.

Taiwan's legal regime to protect trade secrets is largely aligned with international standards but the protection of trade secret faces new challenges. In particular, the growth of international trade and globalization has increased the mobility of people, who can change jobs easily, while the improvement of digital technology and the increasing use of the internet make it much easier to store and disseminate trade secrets. This is a particularly challenging problem for Taiwan's high tech industry.

In his speech George Chen outlined some of the major IP issues in doing business in Taiwan. He began with the problem of online copyright infringements whereby consumers access and download free or nearly free pirated content offered by overseas websites. The use of infringing streaming devices (ISD), apps, website linking, and "plug in" media players offering stream ripping/downloading functions represent the fastest-growing challenge to effective copyright enforcement. He also raised the issue, which has been recommended by the IPR committee, of extending the term of copyright protection to 70 years, in order to be globally consistent. Currently 64 countries protect sound recordings for 70 years or more, including 18 out of the top 20 music markets, as well as 29 out of the 32 OECD members.

He also raised the draft proposal of the Health Promotion Administration under the Ministry of Health and Welfare to mandates tobacco products' so-called "plain packaging"; banning the use of trademarks, logos, colours and graphics and increase the size of on-pack pictorial health warnings (PHWs) from 35% to 85% of the space product packs, which would deprive companies of their IPR and undermine their ability to distinguish their products from those of competitors. Other IPR concerns facing businesses in Taiwan include the IP Court's handling of trademark-use issues by unauthorized parties.