The New USMCA Will Govern Trade in North America Replacing NAFTA

Takeway: The USMCA is meant to modernize NAFTA and lead to freer markets and heightened protection for IP holders, and may also provide greater economic stimulus and jobs to the U.S.

President Trump recently announced that as of July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will govern trade in North America. He stated the “USMCA is a great deal for all three countries, solves the many deficiencies and mistakes in NAFTA, greatly opens markets to our farmers and manufacturers, reduces trade barriers to the U.S. and will bring all three Great Nations together in competition with the rest of the world.”

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, some of the key points of the intellectual property chapter of the agreement will:

1. “require full national treatment for copyright and related rights so United States creators are not deprived of the same protections that domestic creators receive in a foreign market;

2. continue to provide strong patent protection for innovators by enshrining patentability standards and patent office best practices to ensure that United States innovators, including small- and medium-sized businesses, are able to protect their inventions with patents, include strong protection for pharmaceutical and agricultural innovators;

3. require strong standards against the circumvention of technological protection measures that often protect works such as digital music, movies, and books;

4. establish appropriate copyright safe harbors to provide protection for IP and predictability for legitimate enterprises that do not directly benefit from the infringement, consistent with United States law; and

5. enhance provisions for protecting trademarks, including well-known marks, to help companies that have invested effort and resources into establishing goodwill for their brands.”

Also after adopting the USMCA, Mexico will no longer require recordal of trademark licenses and new remedies for trademark holders will be available. Additionally, patent terms may be adjusted. For example, the 20-year patent term can now be adjusted due to unreasonable delays from the Mexican Patent Office and will provide potential benefits to all applications filed after November 30, 2020.