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"The American government and American companies are very concerned about the state of intellectual property rights in Israel, and we hope Israel will address these concerns," said U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary David Sampson yesterday in an interview with TheMarker.

Sampson, who is visiting Israel, said he had come to discuss a number of issues related to intellectual property rights. These were the first discussions held this year, and are part of preparations to list Israel as a country that violates intellectual property rights.

The dispute centers around legislation and commitments made a year ago under pressure by generic drug companies, including Teva; additional bills are currently under discussion in the Justice Ministry.

The American action comes in response to pressure from U.S. patent-holders.

The U.S. government claims parties in Israel are making unfair use of information submitted when patented pharmaceuticals are registered in Israel, and is demanding that protective measures be increased and that information not be transferred to generic companies. In addition, Americans object to the Israeli method of setting patent durations for pharmaceuticals, before they may be copied by generic companies. In addition, Sampson said the U.S. government is concerned by software, music and DVD piracy in Israel.

Additional issues to be discussed include the U.S. government's demand to reduce its trade deficit with Israel, which totaled $7.2 billion in the first 11 months of 2006 - an increase of $877 million over the same period the previous year. The U.S. also demands increased transparency in government tenders, the removal of commercial barriers between American companies and the Palestinian Authority, and the amendment of Israeli regulations to increase conformity with international regulations.