Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am

Fast-changing intellectual property landscape

China always gets the blame for failing to protect intellectual property rights. Now, as it speeds towards becoming an innovation-based economy, its intellectual property (IP) landscape is also changing.

For years, Washington has lambasted Beijing over piracy. In 2007, it requested that the World Trade Organisation establish a dispute resolution panel to handle cases of IP rights violation on the mainland.

Last year, China showed the world its determination to knock out the knock-offs!

The Chinese Patent Office issued 580,000 patents, up 41 per cent from a year earlier, and almost six times that of 2001.

In 2008 it surpassed the US to become the most litigious country for IP disputes with 24,000 suits filed. That compares to more than 9,500 cases filed in the US in the same year. New patent applications in China totalled 947,000 last year, up from 252,000 in 2002.

Professor Edwin Lai of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology attributes this to the significant progress the country has made in IP protection, calling it a natural course of economic development.

But how come the Americans are still whingeing? Many of them remain sceptical about China's patent law. They believe patents are useless on the mainland because the legal system only favours local firms in litigation with foreign competitors.

Because of these misconceptions, many have missed the boat in the patent evolution.

Only about 10 per cent of patent applications were filed by foreign companies in 2008 and a negligible percentage of IP lawsuits were filed by them in the same year.

Still, government statistics show that the win rate of multinational companies in these lawsuits has been over 50 per cent, while in some cities, it exceeds 90 per cent. So, it is true that if you never try you'll never know.

Patent professionals constantly encourage foreign firms to take advantage of the new trends and protect their IP rights against infringers. But then in the same breath, they also warn that litigation success requires more than just a willingness to sue.

Other prerequisites include an in-depth understanding of the local judicial system and relevant legal doctrines and an ability to manoeuvre the intricacies of local law and politics.

On second thoughts, maybe scepticism is the safest bet.

Good luck in the dignity stakes

The recent comment by Premier Wen Jiabao about 'letting the Chinese live with greater dignity' is all the rage among netizens on the mainland. It's certainly uplifting to hear the premier put people first in national policymaking.

He said Chinese citizens shall enjoy full freedom and rights within the framework of the constitution and laws, which is key to the promotion of 'greater dignity' of the people.

To further explain his principle, Wen said all people should be equal before the law and the ultimate purpose of China's development should be none other than meeting the increasing material and cultural needs of the people.

Some senior executives at the China News Weekly have been so inspired by his speech that they are collecting public comments from the internet community to present them to the NPC and CPPCC meetings under way in Beijing.

We wonder how far they will go in this noble cause, but we certainly wish them the best of luck.

Doing the business

Let's be honest, most people go to business schools because they want to become business leaders and make millions one day.

There are many university degrees that can help you get there, but the famous Jiao Tong University in Shanghai has the most direct and unambiguous sales pitch for its CEO training course on offer from May this year.

One of the country's oldest educational institutions with a history of more than 110 years, Jiao Tong says it can help 'firms and organisations from all over the world who need to have an in-depth knowledge about how to do business with and in China, profitably and without any surprises'.

If they can really achieve that, then their CEO programme will definitely be the world's most coveted business course.

Words of wisdom

Our item yesterday on mothers in law being the cause of mainland property price inflation, prompted this little verse from a reader:

No money, no honey,

No house, no bride,

Pay off the mortgage,

To see monster-in-law's good side.

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Bill.