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US removes Taiwan from IPR 'watch list'

By William Lowther
Sunday, Jan 18, 2009, Page 1

The US has taken Taiwan off its special “watch list” in recognition of the progress it has made in protecting intellectual property rights (IPR).

“Taiwan has come a long way on this issue over the last eight years,” said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the US Trade Representative's office in Washington.

“Taiwan was a haven for pirates. Today, it has strengthened its enforcement, strengthened its laws and demonstrated a commitment to becoming a haven for innovation and creativity,” Spicer said on Friday.

“This is a credit to the hard work done by Taiwan as well as to our close bilateral cooperation. We hope that this progress can continue to be duplicated in other areas of our trade relationship,” he said.

The unusual praise-filled statement came close on the heels of the decision by two other departments of the US government to take legal actions against Taiwanese businesspeople.

In one case three Taiwanese executives have agreed to plead guilty in the US for participating in a global price-fixing conspiracy related to liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panels, and in the other, a married Taiwanese couple appeared certain to be banned from conducting business with US companies because they were alleged to have shipped components to North Korea that could have been used in weapons of mass destruction.

But it was the good news from the US Trade Representative (USTR) that will dominate business talks this weekend.

The decision to remove Taiwan from the “Special 301 Watch List “resulted from an “out-of-cycle review” announced last April to examine how well laws to protect intellectual property rights were being enforced in Taiwan.

In a written statement, the USTR said: “The US will continue to carefully monitor Taiwan's progress in improving its IPR regime, including enactment of pending legislation to fight Internet piracy.”

The US also wants to see tighter laws to prevent the import and export of pirated goods, including pharmaceutical products, medical devices and such drugs.

In the first case against Taiwanese businesspeople, three executives from Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd have agreed to plead guilty and serve prison time in the US for illegally fixing prices in the sale of thin-film-transistor (TFT) LCD panels.

According to felony charges filed by the US Department of Justice, Frank Lin (林鎮弘) has agreed to serve nine months and pay a U$50,000 fine; Liu Chih-chun (劉治軍) will serve seven months and pay a US$30,000 fine; and Brian Lee (李學龍) will serve six months and pay a US$20,000 fine.

They will plead guilty to joining a conspiracy with South Korean and Japanese companies between 2001 and 2006 to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing prices.

Taiwan-based Chunghwa Picture Tubes will pay US$65 million in fines.

The three Taiwanese executives will also assist the US government in its ongoing TFT-LCD investigation.

TFT-LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

In the second case, the US Treasury Department has sanctioned a Taiwanese couple and the two firms they run for illicit sales to a North Korean firm accused of spreading weapons of mass destruction.

The Treasury Department said that Alex Tsai (蔡顯泰) and his wife Tsai Su Lu-chi (蔡蘇綠綺), and their firms, Global Interface Company Inc and Trans Merits Co Ltd, “shipped to North Korea items that could be used to support North Korea's advanced weapons program.”

SHIPMENTS Shipments were made to the North Korean state firm, Korea Mining Development Trading Corp, which is blacklisted in the US for selling banned equipment to Syria and Iran last year.

Stuart Levey, US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism, said the couple and their firms faced a ban on doing business with any US citizens and a freeze on any assets under US jurisdiction.

Alex Tsai was indicted last year by Taiwanese prosecutors for forging invoices and illegally shipping restricted materials to North Korea, Levey said.

A Treasury spokesman refused to identify what equipment the firms allegedly sold to North Korea, but other sources said they were items that could be used in the manufacture of missiles.

Despite these setbacks, experts said that Taiwan's removal from the watch list should help improve US-Taiwanese trade across the board even in the wake of the economic slowdown.

LOCAL RESPONSE The Intellectual Property Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday welcomed the news.

The director-general of the office, Wang Mei-hua (王美花), said the development was an indication that Taiwan's efforts to protect intellectual property rights had won the recognition of the US.

Wang said that the establishment of the intellectual property court on July 1 last year was the most important achievement in the nation's efforts to promote IPR protection, adding that the court had received 700 cases as of the end of the year.

Wang said Taiwan was one of the few countries in the world, along with Malaysia and Thailand, that has set up an intellectual property court. Most countries, she said, have only established intellectual property tribunals. Over the past year, Taiwan has also stepped up IPR enforcement on campuses to combat Internet and textbook piracy, she said.

The government is also taking aim at copyright infringements on the Internet and has submitted a draft amendment of the Copyright Law to the legislature last October that would provide incentives to Internet service providers to help curb such infringements.

She said her office would hold a public hearing on the legislation next week and hoped that it could clear the legislature during the next legislative session, which is due to begin next month.



Ma calls on PRC to remove missiles

By Mo Yan-chih
Sunday, Jan 18, 2009, Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday reiterated his call on Beijing to remove its missiles targeting Taiwan and improve cross-strait relations through negotiation.

“Peace never comes easily, because more than 1,000 missiles deployed by Beijing are still aimed at Taiwan,” he said while attending this year’s Asia-Pacific International Leadership Conference at the Grand Hotel.

Ma pledged to make Taiwan a “peacemaker” rather than a “troublemaker” in the region and push for more cross-strait talks, while reducing conflict across the Taiwan Strait.

“Tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will be eased through the normalization of bilateral trade and economic activities,” Ma said.

Ma said his administration had dedicated a great deal of effort in pushing for dialogue across the strait and reducing cross-strait conflict since taking office.

The development of cross-strait relations, tourism, trade and the implementation of the three links, Ma said, showed that the two sides were able to establish a peaceful relationship through dialogue.

The normalization of cross-strait relations will also help Taiwan address other issues, including the country’s international space with China, the president said.

Taiwan should respond to the opportunities and challenges posed by China, and his administration would continue to create a freer economic environment that would let Taiwan enhance its competitive advantages.

China’s military buildup, however, continues to hinder the cultivation of harmonious cross-strait relations and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, Ma said, calling on China to remove the missiles deployed on the opposite side of the strait.

Reverend William Luo (羅榮光), a pro-independence advocate who attended the conference, shouted: “No Justice” at Ma during his speech. Ma ignored the remarks and continued his speech.



Aborigines say traditional assembly may work better than police processes

BACK TO THE OLD WAYS: A tribe’s own probe into a set of alleged crimes produced radically different results than investigations conducted by police and prosecutors

By Loa Iok-sin
Sunday, Jan 18, 2009, Page 3

After conducting its own investigation, the Saisiat Assembly, along with victims and the accused in a criminal case, yesterday said the case was a scam and accused the police and prosecutors of mishandling the case.

On Dec. 24, Miaoli police said after a month’s investigation it had arrested members of a Saisiat gang in Nanjhuang Township (南庄), Miaoli County, who had allegedly been harassing local Saisiat residents. The police said the victims, including a woman who had allegedly been raped, could not wait to testify against the group, and pleaded with the police to jail them.

The police said the gang, led by two brothers, Chien Yin-fu (錢銀福) and Chien Po-chun (錢伯駿), had committed crimes including rape, robbery and beating innocent people.

Saisiat Assembly Speaker Feng Te-hui (風德輝) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday that he had been shocked to hear the news and quickly asked the assembly to conduct an investigation into the incident.

The result of the tribe’s own investigation was quite different from that of the investigation conducted by the police and prosecutors.

The assembly was an unofficial body consisting of senior Saisiat family clan members elected by all Saisiats last year in a popular vote. In the Saisiat tradition, decisions concerning the tribe are made in a meeting of senior family clan members, and the meeting is presided over by a senior member of the tribe who is respected by all Saisiats.

The structure of the assembly is modeled on the traditional system. Although the tribal assembly has its legal basis in the Aboriginal autonomy bill, it still has no official authority as the bill has yet to be passed.

“Our investigation shows that these so-called ‘victims’ were guided by a person with bad intentions to provide false testimony,” said Obay ‘a Awi, a spokesman for the assembly as he showed an Apple Daily report of the case at the press conference. “We regret that the police and the prosecutor did not really look into the case carefully.”

The victims also appeared at the news conference and admitted they gave false testimony.

“I was told to say that a rape occurred, while it actually did not,” said Chu Hui-lien (朱惠蓮), who accused the gangsters of raping her.

“Chung Yu-chung [鍾玉忠] told me to testify against the Chien brothers and promised to give me some money once they were indicted,” said Feng Ching-chung (風慶忠), another “victim” who testified.

Wumao Wasi, another spokesman for the Saisiat Assembly, said that their own investigation found that Chung had intentionally set up the Chien brothers because of some prior personal issues between them.

While the case is still in the legal process, Obay said that it showed that the traditional Saisiat judiciary system still works and sometimes could work better than the judiciary.

“The ‘victims’ finally admited that they lied when we tried to investigate the case in the traditional way — having elders of the involved family clans resolve it under the witness of a commonly respected elder,” Obay said. “This traditional mechanism will be important once Aboriginal autonomy is in place.”




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