USCIB Urges Reversal of 1-800 Contacts FTC Ruling

USCIB filed an amicus brief with regards to 1-800 Contacts, Inc. case to highlight the challenges American businesses would face under the recent Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) decision’s approach to antitrust liability for trademark settlements, and explain the potential negative impacts the decision would have on businesses, consumers and competition if left to stand.

USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin led the process for USCIB. “The Commission’s decision creates substantial uncertainty regarding the enforcement and settlement of intellectual property rights, increases the risk of arbitrary enforcement against even routine settlements, and potentially exposes settlements to such risk for decades,” warned Thevenin. “The decision should be reversed.”

Earlier this year, the FTC decided to impose antitrust liability against 1-800 Contacts, the largest online retailer of contact lenses in the U.S., on the basis that 1-800 Contacts’ settlements of trademark infringing lawsuits against at least fourteen competing online contact lens retailers restricted trade. Among other things, USCIB’s amicus argues that the Commission’s decision ignores the critical importance to business of intellectual property rights and its enforcement and would unfairly require the lawful exercise of such rights to a higher pro-competition standard.

USCIB thanks Eileen M. Cole, Bryant D. Gant and Seiji Niwa of member firm White & Case for their work with the amicus.

 

USCIB All In Initiative

USCIB All In

About

Faced with the urgent need to make faster and smarter progress towards achieving the ambitions of a range of international agreements including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Framework on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement, inclusive multilateralism is essential. In this context, USCIB has developed a 2 year initiative: “Campaign All In.”

All In has launched a global conversation on how to strengthen dialogue, partnership and engagement with business to advance implementation of 2015 outcomes via the multilateral system. The Campaign brings together policymakers and global businesses in key UN cities to begin a conversation on opportunities for harnessing the power of all industry sectors to achieve the SDG goals and other sustainability initiatives.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks at the All In Roundtable

Campaign All In was launched during a roundtable event on May 8, 2019 in which USCIB partnered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) to convene the first All In Roundtable on Inclusive Multilateralism, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Business. Further ‘All In’ roundtables are planned for Bangkok on June 11 and in New York in July. Together, the three roundtables will address six key themes:

  1. Enabling Public-Private Partnerships with the UN for the SDGs (Geneva)
  2. More than the sum of the parts: Leveraging public private cooperation in science and technology for the SDGs (Geneva)
  3. Using Value Chains to mobilize multi-sector engagement and synergy for the SDGs (Bangkok)
  4. Economic Empowerment and inclusion to catalyze SDG impact (Bangkok)
  5. Investing in Infrastructure in all its forms for the SDGs (NYC)
  6. Measuring and Mainstreaming Impact of Private Sector Engagement on SDGs (NYC)

Utilizing the outcomes from the 2019 discussions, All In will develop a 2020 Action Plan for Inclusive Multilateralism.

Events

Geneva Week roundtable

Upcoming:

  • Bangkok Roundtable
    • When: June 11th, 2019 from 2:00 – 5:00 PM, followed by a reception
    • Where: UN ESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand
    • Registration: Available here
  • High Level Political Forum Roundtable
    • Details TBC
  • UN General Assembly Conference
    • Details TBC

Past:

*Events are based on invite only

 

US Business Launches ‘All In’ Initiative to Advance Business Engagement for Global Goals Implementation

Geneva Week roundtable

USCIB partnered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) to convene the first ‘All In’ Roundtable on Inclusive Multilateralism, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Business. USCIB’s ‘All In” Initiative seeks to launch a global conversation on how to strengthen dialogue, partnership and engagement with business to advance implementation of 2015 outcomes.

Over fifty participants from Geneva-based diplomatic missions, UN bodies, NGOs and business joined the event, including:

  • UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
  • Charge d’Affaires, ad Interim, of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations Mark Cassayre
  • Secretary General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder
  • Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Mukhisa Kituyi
  • UK Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Julian Braithwaite
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks at the All In Roundtable

Expert panelists from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),UNICEF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN Global Compact and the Partnering Initiative reflected on two themes that were raised in All In Discussion Starter papers:

Public Private Partnerships with the UN – Designing for SDG impact

Leveraging public private sector cooperation on technical and scientific knowledge for targeted SDG implementation

“The event highlighted the diverse variety of working arrangements to engage with non-state actors and the private sector,” said USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Environment and Energy Norine Kennedy. “Through the “All In” initiative USCIB will draw on its long experience in the multilateral system to highlight what has worked well and to flag areas where further partnership, improvement and strengthening are needed to speed up and scale SDG impact. “

Further ‘All In’ roundtables are planned for Bangkok and other UN cities, on additional themes, including metrics for impact, infrastructure investment for SDG action and economic empowerment and inclusion. Based on this series of discussions throughout 2019, ‘All In’ will develop a 2020 Action Plan for Inclusive Multilateralism.

The ‘All In’ roundtable took place in conjunction with USCIB’s second annual Geneva Week, May 6-9.

USCIB Geneva Week-Business in Society: Shared Values

USCIB will hold its second annual Geneva Week trip for members and prospects May 6-10, 2019 under the theme: “Business in Society: Shared Values.” 

USCIB is pleased to announce that meetings with the following organizations are now confirmed: U.S. Mission, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Additional meetings will be confirmed in the coming weeks. Please check this page for updates.

The purpose of Geneva Week is to generate valuable conversations and connections between the U.S. business community and UN Agencies, Missions to the UN-Geneva, and other important Permanent Representatives in Geneva. It is a week-long opportunity to:

  • highlight your company’s work and policy priorities in the areas of health care, intellectual property, nutrition and sustainability;
  • demonstrate business’ commitment and contributions towards shared goals; and
  • raise any key concerns you may have regarding the intersection of international policy making and global business.

USCIB’s targets for interactions include senior management from several Geneva-based UN Agencies and Permanent Missions, including:

Agencies Include:

  • The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • The World Health Organization (WHO)
  • UN Environment’s Chemicals and Wastes division

Missions Include:

  • U.S. Mission to the UN
  • Australian Mission to the UN
  • Brazilian Mission to the UN
  • Canadian Mission to the UN
  • EU Mission to the UN
  • Japanese Mission to the UN
  • UK Mission to the UN

Our desired outcome from the week is to build and strengthen relationships in support of continued and ongoing communication between Geneva-based institutions and the business community, as well as to ensure that UN Agencies and Missions clearly understand:

  • Our shared values – how and where the synergies and areas of cooperation exist between business and multi-lateral institutions – and
  • Our concerns regarding business access and business’ license to operate

Participation in USCIB’s Geneva Week is by invitation only, and costs a fee of $750.00. As spaces are limited, please contact Mia Lauter (mlauter@uscib.org) to RSVP or to receive more information.

New OECD Reports Outlines Business Investment Contribution to SDGs

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has recently published a report on “The Contribution of International Business Investment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” The report surveys the main type of financing behind business investment in developing countries, recent trends, an evaluation of the contribution of these flows to the SDGs, and prospects going forward.

The report highlights that multinational enterprises (MNEs) have become one of the most important actors for channeling investment to the developing countries. A relatively new actor providing financing for development is the State-Owned Enterprise (SOE). Furthermore, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is one of the primary vehicles that MNEs use to invest in foreign markets and a major component of foreign direct investment. M&A inflows in developing countries starting declining already in 2012.

An increasingly important source of international investment into developing countries is China; in 2017 China doubled its M&A in developing countries to $25 billion, making it their top resource of international M&A (ahead of Japan and the US). Meanwhile, private flows align naturally with the SDGs in the area of infrastructure: SDG 6, which focuses on clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy, SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure, and SDG 10 which aims to reduce inequalities.

“The report calls to action for improving the global rules for trade and investment, pursuing domestic policy reform agenda to improve business climates, and addressing new areas of regulatory co-operation,” observed USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl.

The OECD will be organizing a round table on investment and sustainable development on October 23, 2019, as part of the next OECD Investment Week.

USCIB Joins Coalition in Urging Specific US Government Action on US-China Trade

USCIB joined Americans for Free Trade, a multi-industry coalition consisting of over 150 members, to send a letter to President Donald Trump on April 22 regarding upcoming U.S.-China trade talks.

The Coalition letter urged the U.S. government to fully and immediately remove all recently imposed tariffs, including U.S. tariffs and China’s retaliatory tariffs as part of a final deal, while also encouraging the U.S. to come up with a deal that levels the playing field for U.S. companies by achieving meaningful changes to address China’s unfair trade practices that put American technology, innovation and intellectual property at risk.

Regarding unfair trade practices, the letter stated: “For too long, China has engaged in unfair trading practices, including forced technology transfer, cyber theft, intellectual property violations and more. We hope any final deal will resolve the structural issues that are at the core of the trade dispute in order to fully protect American technology, innovation, and intellectual property.”

The letter also urged the government to avoid any enforcement mechanism that would trigger further tariffs and obtain clarity on how the tariff exemption process will be carried out in the event of a deal.

Finally, the group also urged an economic assessment by the Administration examining the costs of tariffs for American businesses and consumers.

Americans for Free Trade represents companies that employ tens of millions of American workers and provide goods and services to virtually every corner of the United States.

USCIB Gathers Stakeholders to Discuss OECD Digital Project 

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson at the 2019 Going Digital Conference

The OECD Summit on Going Digital, held March 11-12 in Paris, presented the main findings and policy messages of the OECD’s two-year Going Digital Project. In light of this milestone, USCIB teamed up with the OECD and Business at OECD to organize an event in Washington DC on March 25 bringing together over fifty representatives from U.S. government, the private sector and press to discuss outcomes and next steps.

The March 25 Conference, hosted by the AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment and Policy, introduced the Going Digital Toolkit and included in-depth discussions on indicators, experiences and innovative policy practices, particularly as they relate to economic growth and societal well-being, privacy, security against cyber-threats, as well as harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for economic and social prosperity.

Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft and Co-Chair of the Business at OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy Julie Brill gave opening remarks, praising the OECD project. “The global digital project will serve as a foundation for policymakers around the world to ensure that the technological revolution is a catalyst for inclusive growth that benefits all,” said Brill. “The timing couldn’t be more appropriate or more important.”

Common themes that emerged among panelists and participants included emphasis on economies to invest in people through increased access to STEM training, innovative use of apprenticeships and skills-based training and retraining programs to ensure that the work force is adaptable and is prepared for the challenges of the future. There was also consensus on the need to reduce barriers to promote AI innovation and application to realize more of the potential of AI in providing new opportunities and even creating new sectors of industries. At the same time, governments need to establish principles to ensure public trust and confidence in AI technologies.

“The OECD undertook the Going Digital Project at a time when other multilateral organizations and individual countries were responding to the digital transformation of the economy in a way that undermined the potential economy and societal benefits,” said Barbara Wanner, USCIB vice president for ICT policy. “USCIB members appreciate how the OECD has navigated the plethora of conflicting views and developed sound, evidence-based recommendations that can guide countries and organizations to benefits of digital innovation. We look forward to shaping the all-important Phase 2 of the project, which will focus on practical steps.”

OECD’s Andy Wyckoff

Other speakers at the conference included OECD Director for Science Technology and Innovation Andy Wyckoff, Director for International Communications, Information, and Emerging Technologies from the U.S. Department of State Adam Lusin as well as The White House Assistant Director for Artificial Intelligence, Office of Science and Technology Lynne Parker.

The day-long event titled, Going Digital: OECD Insights for a Changing World, was dedicated to the late Joseph Alhadeff and commemorated his decades-long leadership and contribution to the ICT space both domestically and globally. Alhadeff was a long-time USCIB supporter, colleague and mentor who served on the USCIB Board and was a Vice Chair of the USCIB ICT Policy Committee for over 15 years.

USCIB Talks Intellectual Property Rights at State Department 

USCIB Vice Presidents Mike Michener and Shaun Donnelly met with the U.S. Department of State team handling Intellectual Property rights (IPR), counterfeiting and piracy and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on March 21 in Washington DC.  Department of State experts from both the Economic and Business (EB) Bureau and the International Organizations (IO) Bureau reviewed U.S. government policy priorities, management concerns and upcoming challenges across the IPR agenda.

EB’s Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement focuses on substantive IPR issues, including a lot of interagency coordination.  The IO Bureau’s Office of Specialized and Technical Agencies focuses more specifically on the institutional, budget and management issues around WIPO.

“WIPO remains a mixed bag for the U.S. government as it does for industry – some useful work but also some deep frustrations whether WIPO is really a strong advocate and enforcer of IPR policies or more of ‘development organization’ more intent on justifying exceptions to strong IPR rules and regulations,” noted Donnelly.

At the meeting, Michener, who leads USCIB’s policy work on intellectual property and innovation, discussed USCIB’s priorities on IPR issues and plans to take a team of member companies for a series of high level meetings at WIPO as part of USCIB’s “Geneva Week”  May 6-10.

“USCIB and especially our IPR Committee will stay in close touch with State and other key U.S. government agencies on the full range of important issues,” said Michener.

Donnelly Visits Google During Trade Tour in Switzerland

USCIB Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly spent the week of March 4 as the business representative on a Washington Think Tank study tour of Switzerland, focusing on trade issues and possibilities for a potential U.S.-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

While in Zurich, Donnelly and the 12-member study tour visited Google Switzerland’s major operations and R&D center. Google’s Zurich operations are the company’s third-largest R&D operation globally and their largest outside the United States. Google opened its first office in Zurich only fifteen years ago and it has quickly grown into one of the largest and most respected employers in the city.

Coincident with the study tour’s visit, Google invited the leadership of economiesuisse, Switzerland’s largest and most influential business association to a luncheon meeting with the visiting Washington team. Economiesuisse is USCIB’s Swiss counterpart and partner in Business at OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and other international business fora.

Hampl Gives Testimony on US-UK Trade Agreement

Eva Hampl provided testimony before the Trade Policy Staff Committee, chaired by USTR, on January 29.
USCIB supports negotiation of a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK as part of a broader strategy to open international markets for U.S. companies and remove barriers and unfair trade practices in support of U.S. jobs.

 

Following USCIB’s submission on January 16 to USTR regarding negotiating objectives for a U.S.-UK Trade Agreement, USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl provided testimony before the Trade Policy Staff Committee, chaired by USTR, on January 29.

“USCIB supports negotiation of a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK as part of a broader strategy to open international markets for U.S. companies and remove barriers and unfair trade practices in support of U.S. jobs,” said Hampl in her testimony. “We strongly believe that continued U.S.-UK free trade is overwhelmingly in the interests of both countries and their global trading partners, provided that the agreement is a high standard and comprehensive bilateral trade and investment agreement. A successful trade agreement with the UK should cover not just market access for goods, but also address important services issues.”

Hampl’s testimony also emphasized the importance of regulatory cohesion across the United States, the UK and the European market as a key component in further liberalizing trade. Regulatory discrimination and differentiation between trade partners can be an obstacle to trade, investment and the ability to conduct business. Affected sectors include pharmaceuticals, chemicals and fintech.

Hampl also raised the issue of digital trade. “U.S. companies rely on cross-border data flows as part of their day-to-day operations,” said Hampl. “A U.S.-UK agreement should include requirements that data can flow unimpeded across borders except for limited and well-defined public policy exceptions, ensuring that they are not used as disguised barriers to trade.”

Regarding intellectual property (IP) protection, Hampl noted that at a minimum, a U.S.-UK agreement should enshrine existing protections and enforcement mechanisms. It should also address sectoral IP issues, such as in the pharmaceutical space.

To read Hampl’s testimony, please click here.