United States asked the World Trade Organization to rule in a complaint against China over piracy of copyrighted movies, music, software and books, escalating a dispute that has soured commercial relations between the two trading giants.
After consultations failed to resolve differences over what the U.S. argues are weak Chinese laws to safeguard patents and copyrights, the U.S. Trade Representative's office took the formal step of asking the Geneva-based arbiter to decree that China's laws fall short of international agreements. China's copying of movies, music and software cost companies 2.2 billion US dollars in 2006 sales, according to an estimate by lobby groups representing Microsoft Corp., Walt Disney Co., and Vivendi SA. The WTO complaint, announced in April, is the first by the U.S. against China for breaching intellectual property rights. Under WTO rules, China can block the establishment of a three-member panel this month, and then the U.S. will need to again request a panel in September, which China can't block. The judges typically take a year or more to rule on a complaint. The two sides held one formal consultation in June, and China hasn't ''taken any steps that address U.S. concerns'' according to the US Trade Office. This is one of five WTO cases the U.S. has brought against China and the third case against China where the U.S. has requested a WTO dispute settlement panel. Last April, the U.S. also filed a complaint about barriers that U.S.-based movie, music, book and other copyright industries face in selling to China. It didn't ask the WTO to rule on that dispute today and instead said it is still "considering next steps".