China and Intellectual Property Rights

20 Feb

A recent cry has come out of the States about the Chinese approach to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). And it’s not the first time. U.S Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has spoken out about China’s tendency to steal intellectual property, all the while seeing itself as having a “voice in making the rules for the next generation.” “They can’t have it both ways,” he said. This accusation comes from quite a background of China’s knack for reverse engineering highly demanded products, and then manufacturing them at a fraction of the cost, undercutting the owners of the IPRs and completely ignoring the rules and regulations surrounding intellectual property at the same time. Has this cry reaped a reward, or simply fallen on deaf ears?

Well, according to Forbes‘ own Perkowski, China is a changing land and, in fact, they’ve been changing for at least the last few years. In 2011 China became the world’s top patent filer, surpassing both the US and Japan to reach the dizzying heights of pole position in the world of IPRs. A Thomson Reuters research report claims that China wants to move from a ‘made in China’ to a ”designed in China” market. But does this really mean that China will change? 

In short, yes. But over time. In the 11th 5 year plan, the Chinese government has made IPRs a top priority, enhancing law enforcement and working with companies to improve IPR management. If China really wants to enter in to a phase of an innovation-centric economy it will have to adapt its approach to IPRs to give firms solid ground upon which to design and create unique, Chinese products.


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