Action must be taken to protect IP rights

Despite Beijing’s efforts to crack down, China remains awash in fake goods. This does nothing to further its ambition of playing a leading role in globalisation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 December, 2016, 1:36am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 December, 2016, 1:36am

As the upgrading and globalisation of China’s economy gathers momentum, respect for intellectual property (IP) rights remains an abiding concern, and a contributor to Sino-US friction. US president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric did nothing to take the heat out of it. Ultimately, if innovation is one of the keys to the development of China’s economy, respect for IP rights is paramount. China will want to protect its own to enhance the environment for investment in innovation.

Legendary American basketball star Michael Jordan is a case in point of IP, trademark and copyright owners facing an uphill battle to protect their rights. He won a ruling in his favour in just one of five claims after appealing all the way to China’s top court, the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing. In one of the most contentious IP cases yet in the mainland Jordan won back the rights to the Chinese version of his surname. The ruling affects the registered trademark rights of athletic goods firm Qiaodan Sports Co to use the Chinese characters “Qiaodan”, the transliteration of Jordan. The Hall of Fame player had filed lawsuits against the sportswear chain as early as 2012 only to have them rejected twice by district courts.

Basketball star Jordan wins China court ruling after four-year case

Despite Beijing’s efforts to crack down on the abuse of IP rights and the like, China remains awash in fake goods. This does nothing to further its ambition of playing a leading role in globalisation as a world power. It needs to demonstrate more sincerity, not least to attract high-risk investment.

Jordan is so well known that his case may spark greater awareness of IP rights in China, amid plans to upgrade high-end manufacturing in hi-tech sectors that are bound to be fraught with IP issues. Such restructuring takes time. So does the innovation needed to drive it. The temptation to take shortcuts by abusing industrial or technological IP rights is strong. Beijing is trying to change the mindset, as evidenced by the establishment of special courts to hear IP disputes. But it needs to communicate a greater sense of urgency at the local government level.