Israel is a member of the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Israel was obligated to implement the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by January 1, 2000. The United States continues to encourage Israel to accede to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty (commonly known as the WIPO Internet Treaties), particularly in view of the importance of Israel's high-technology software and telecommunication industries.
In April 2005, Israel adopted limited data exclusivity legislation that provided some new protection from unfair commercial use of the confidential test data of pharmaceutical firms. However, these data exclusivity provisions provide data protection periods that fall far short of the periods provided in OECD-level economies, as well as other countries in the Middle East. Furthermore, even during these truncated periods of protection, generic companies are not prohibited from relying on the undisclosed test data of U.S. companies to get approvals for the export of the generic product. Research and development, as well as clinical trial expenditures made by international pharmaceutical companies, have fallen in recent years as companies have moved activities to countries with more favorable data protection regimes.
In December 2005, the Israeli government passed legislation that curtailed existing pharmaceutical patent term adjustments granted to compensate for delays in obtaining regulatory approval of a drug. This legislation further weakened the protection for intellectual property of research-based pharmaceutical companies in Israel. The new legislation references a group of 31 countries (Australia, the United States, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the countries of the EU) in determining the length of patent term extension. In addition, the legislation creates numerous bureaucratic obstacles for patent holders who wish to apply for a patent term extension. The legislation also applies retroactively to all pending applications for patent term extensions and already granted patent term extensions.
As a result of the deficiencies of the data exclusivity legislation and the prospect of passage of the patent term extension legislation, Israel was placed in April 2005 on the Special 301 “Priority Watch List” and to this date remains. The U.S. Government continues to urge the Israeli government and the Knesset to take steps that will provide a reasonable period of non-reliance on confidential data and periods of patent term extension similar to those granted in OECD countries.
Israel has increased its budgetary, educational, police, and judicial resources devoted to the enforcement of the country’s copyright and trademark laws. In addition, Israel passed amendments to its copyright laws that should make it easier for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges to pursue, prosecute, and punish copyright crimes. Please see the Investment Climate Statement (Chapter 6) for more up to date information, specifically on the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the USTR on pharmaceutical data exclusivity.