Special 301

Refers to the so-called “special section 301” Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. The ordinary section 301 of the U.S. Trade Law allows the U.S. to take retaliatory measures against countries applying “unfair” trade practices to U.S. trade. The special 301 authority is designed to enhance the U.S. administration’s ability to negotiate improvements in foreign intellectual property regimes either bilaterally or multilaterally.

The statute requires the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) to annually identify those foreign countries which deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or fair and equitable market access for Americans relying on intellectual property protection. Those countries not making improving such conditions or entering into good faith negotiations may be identified as “priority foreign countries” and may be subject to further investigation and various trade consequences. The legality of special 301 under international trade agreements has often been questioned.