The United States is protesting a judgement handed down by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in favor of Antigua after the US was found in breach of not allowing access to on-line gambling companies based in the Caribbean island.

A $21-million a year judgment was awarded to Antigua after the WTO declared that US cross-border gaming laws were illegal. The US had refused to allow Antigua-based online gambling companies access to the US market and the WTO had ruled this was unfair.

The judgement was handed down in 2007 and Antigua had sought to negotiate a settlement with the US, however attempts were brushed off, despite numerous rulings in favor of the Caribbean island.

Antigua officials now say the disregard by the US leaves them with no choice but to seek the imposition of the annual fee handed down by the WTO.

If the US refused to pay up, the WTO granted Antigua authorization to collect by other means, including disregarding US copyrights to a value equal to the annual damages owed.

But the US is not happy that the small Caribbean island plans to follow the rulings of the WTO. “If Antigua actually proceeds with a plan for its government to authorize the theft of intellectual property, it would only serve to hurt Antigua’s own interests,” the US said in a statement. “Government-authorized piracy would undermine chances for a settlement that would provide real benefits to Antigua. It also would serve as a major impediment to foreign investment in the Antiguan economy, particularly in high-tech industries.”

A hearing on the matter is set for later this month.