The island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is threatening to suspend all U.S. intellectual property protections within its borders. The unusual move comes in the wake of a decision against the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding a dispute over online offshore gambling.
Antigua has been fighting back against U.S. restrictions on offshore gambling for almost ten years. It first filed an action with the WTO in 2003, alleging that U.S. restrictions against placing bets across state lines via electronic means violated global trade treaties. The WTO agreed and authorized Antigua to suspend all U.S.-owned IP rights in 2007.
After negotiations between the two countries have failed to reach a resolution and crippled Antigua’s gambling industry, the country recently decided to move forward with sanctions. In a press release, Colin Murdoch, Trade Ambassador for Antigua, stated, “This decision [to suspend US IP rights] did not come easily. After countless proposals from our government have been more or less ignored by the Office of the USTR – numerous decisions by the WTO declaring the United States Government’s position illegal – and failure of the United States Government to provide meaningful proposals to end the dispute, the WTO provides this remedy not to encourage illicit behavior by nations; but rather to provide them with a way to secure their legal rights as sovereign nations.”
In response, the U.S. warned the island nation against moving forward, characterizing it as a plan “to authorize the theft of intellectual property.” The U.S. also maintains that it has offered “real and substantial benefits” to Antigua and Barbuda.
Copyright holders are understandably concerned by Antigua’s plans. By disclaiming U.S. IP rights, Antigua and Barbuda could become a hotbed for what would otherwise be illegal downloading of infringing music, movies, and other digital content. I will be closely monitoring this situation and will provide updates as they become available.
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I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +