Riding the crest of a boom in intellectual property rights

Updated: 2013-08-26 06:56

By Giles Chance (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

With the Chinese government starting a nationwide effort to strengthen IPR protection through the legal system and the Chinese courts, it is boom time for intellectual property rights in China.

In 2012, the number of civil IPR cases that were received by the courts in China rose by 46 percent year-on-year, to 87,419. So far in 2013, the growth has continued at an even faster rate than in 2012. More than 80 percent of the IPR cases heard in 2012 in China were copyright and trademark cases. Disputes over patents, unfair competition and technology agreements made up the rest. More than 2 percent of the cases heard involved Chinese litigants not from the mainland a substantial increase from previous years.

There are two main reasons to explain the sudden increase in the foreign participation in IPR cases heard by the Chinese courts.

The first and most obvious is the increasing involvement in China of all kinds of manufacturing and service companies from around the world. Many foreign companies, particularly in the United States, have held back from selling or manufacturing in the Chinese market for reasons of cost, as well as for fear that their products will be pirated in China. These companies fear that Chinese competitors will not just take their Chinese market away from them, but eventually their home market as well. They feel that they have no choice but to come and compete in the Chinese market, which is often one of the largest in the world for their products.

Another important reason is that the Chinese legal system and the Chinese courts are doing a much better job than ever before in protecting IPR. By the end of 2012, the Supreme People's Court had appointed 83 Intermediate People's Courts to handle patent dispute cases, with 141 grass-root courts given the jurisdiction for general intellectual property cases. Chinese courts stepped up criminal enforcement regarding intellectual property cases, with 13,104 IPR-related criminal cases being heard and more than 60,000 suspects being detained in the 43,000-plus concluded IPR cases.

Six key IPR laws relating to trademarks, patents, copyrights, civil procedure, patent commissioning and service invention were reviewed and improved in 2012. The Supreme People's Court conducted an important IP Adjudication Conference in collaboration with the US in Beijing, and has also been actively involving itself in other international intellectual property conferences in order to increase China's awareness of and impact on global IP.

The fundamental driver of China's interest in intellectual property is the number of mainland companies who are creating IP themselves to strengthen and sharpen their competitive edge, both in China and around the world. In 2011, China passed the US and Japan to become the largest filer of patents. With an annual growth rate of 17 percent in patent filing, the World Intellectual Property Organization projects that by 2015 Chinese companies and individuals will be filing 500,000 patents each year, ahead of the US with about 400,000, and Japan with 300,000.

Of course, it's not just volume but quality that counts. The encouragement given by China's government to Chinese companies to file patents is thought by some to undermine the quality of Chinese patent applications. But we can see in ZTE, Lenovo and Huawei's global success, built on innovation, as well as price and efficiency, that Chinese companies are starting to compete very effectively regarding their own intellectual property.

China is not just taking intellectual property more seriously than in the past but is being seen to do so.

The author is a visiting professor at the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University.

(China Daily USA 08/26/2013 page14)