Domestic market needs to drive IPR protection

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2011, 12:00am


Although China has received international praise for the first time for its efforts in cracking down on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations, it will be domestic market requirements and not overseas pressure that result in a long-term protection mechanism being established, mainland experts say.

The United States gave a rare acknowledgment yesterday of China's 'special campaign', which began from October, saying it 'appears to have resulted in improved co-ordination among various IPR enforcement authorities in China at central, provincial, and local levels'.

The annual Special 301 Report, released by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said the campaign, launched by Premier Wen Jiabao, might lead to lasting improvements in IPR enforcement.

Section 301 refers to a US trade act covering barriers to intellectual property laws.

IPR authorities and lawyers familiar with IPR issues on the mainland said it was the first time in years they had found a positive comment in the report regarding China's effort on IPR protection.

'For years they just criticised the negative side of our work [in the report]. This is the first time I heard praise,' said an official with the Guangdong Intellectual Property Office.

The campaign has targeted a broad range of intellectual property violations, from illegal downloads of music and movies, CD and DVD piracy, software infringement, to trademark infringement, the latter involving counterfeit mobile phones, car parts, bulk commodities and pharmaceuticals.

In Guangdong, 28 government departments - including the IP Office, the Administration for Industry and Commerce Trademark Control Department, customs, public security, the procuratorate and the courts - had jointly worked on the campaign, according to the IP Office.

China was among 12 countries cited on this year's 'priority watch list' for weak protection of IPR.

Yang Xiaolian, a Guangzhou-based IPR lawyer, and some other IPR experts said a long-term mechanism could only be established based on the internal driving force within the mainland system, not overseas complaints.

'The result of officials' work on IPR protection during the campaign was related to [mainland officials'] appraisal, so they must pay more attention to it. It is an important motive,' she said.

She said in the future many prominent domestic enterprises would face the challenge of IPR violations and they would complain and push the government to move forward.

The official with the Guangdong IP Office confirmed they had to report to the State Council each Friday on what they had done in the previous week. 'The central government takes this seriously and everyone has to do their best job.'

The IP Office said its top priority during the campaign was to handle complaints from foreign enterprises, which had attracted attention from the consulates of the US and France in Guangzhou and applause from overseas investors such as Samsung.

'Some foreign companies asked us not to end the campaign because they were worried that once it was over, the IPR violations would start again,' the official said. 'We explained that the campaign was just a beginning, from which we will find a way to set up a long-term protection mechanism.'