Lawyers from Sidley Austin have registered to lobby on behalf of Baidu Inc., marking the Chinese search engine's entry into Washington's influence market.
Baidu is hoping to have a say in the development of what’s known as the Special 301 Report, according to a lobbying registration filed with the U.S. Senate. The report is an annual look at what the U.S. government considers to be unfair trade practices, and it’s written by staff in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The 2010 Special 301 Report took aim at Baidu directly under a section titled “notorious markets.”
“The U.S. music industry reports that the vast majority of all illegal downloads of music in China are associated with Baidu,” the report (PDF) said. “Baidu is the target of ongoing infringement actions by both domestic and foreign rights holders. Baidu executives continue to deny responsibility for content hosted by other websites. Several rights holders are pursuing legal action in Chinese courts.”
The company is widely described as the dominant search engine in China, accounting for three-quarters or more of the market there. As of July, it was the fourth-largest search provider globally, after Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, according to Reuters.
Listed on the lobbying registration are James Mendenhall, a counsel in Sidley Austin’s Washington office who’s a former general counsel to the USTR, and lawyers in the firm’s Palo Alto, Calif., and Beijing offices. Mendenhall did not immediately return a call requesting comment. The registration was effective Nov. 18 and was posted online this week.
Baidu has not previously registered with a lobbyist or registered to lobby on its own, according to a search of Senate records.
UPDATE: Click here for a profile of Baidu general counsel Victor Liang from Corporate Counsel, a National Law Journal affiliate.