China's National IP Strategy 2008

Author:Mr Danny Friedmann
Profession:Duncan Bucknell Company

China's State Council promulgated a national

intellectual property strategy [1]. In the policy document there is

a lot of talk about doing everything more efficient and more

effective. Great, but how to achieve these laudable goals?

Over the last two decades, and especially around the time China

ascended to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001, China

impressively improved its system of IP protection and enforcement.

However, it's aspirations to make the enforcement "hard as

steel and definitely not soft as bean curd" as China's

premier Wen Jiaobao aspired for in 2006 [2], have not yet

materialised. In the so called Compendium of China's National

Intellectual Property Strategy [3], an extensive list of

aspirations and measures, China is vowing to develop itself into a

country with a relatively higher level of intellectual property

right creation, utilisation, protection and administration by


So what exactly is a national IP strategy? Are all desired goals

and commitments in there? What is missing? And how to achieve the

goals set out in the strategy?

What is a national IP strategy?

National IP strategies are en vogue. The World Intellectual

Property Organisation (WIPO) has gathered the summary of the

national IP strategies of 21 countries, plus the African Union and

the European Union [4]. WIPO's definition of a national IP

strategy is: "a set of measures formulated and implemented by

a government to encourage and facilitate effective creation,

development and management of intellectual property."

Professor Daniel Gervais [5] points out to the fact that to make a

proper policy analysis is impossible or inherently unreliable,

because theoretical models are inadequate or valid empirical data

unavailable. Despite this correct observation the promulgation of a

national IP strategy can clarify common goals. In this case the

national IP strategy is a product of the National Working Group for

IPR, made up of 13 officials from 12 IP-related agencies and

ministries, including the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the State

Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), Customs, the Supreme

People's Court and the State Administration for Industry and

Commerce (SAIC) [6]. So the commitments set in the national IP

strategy will be broadly embraced, which increases its chances to

be realised.

What stands out in the national IP strategy?

Paragraph 13, 14 and 15 give the contours of strengthening IPRs

protection, preventing abuses of IPRs and fostering a culture of

IPRs. After that is becomes more interesting, because the more

specific tasks are announced. The key industry sectors where China

wants to obtain strategic patents are given in paragraph 16. They

include: biology, medicine, information, new materials, advanced

manufacturing, new energy, oceanography, resources, environmental

protection, modern agriculture, modern transportation, aeronautics

and astronautics. It is safe to predict that one can expect a lot

of patent activities in China in these industry sectors.

Paragraph 17 is about setting technology standards. Chinese

national standards, such as AVS in the audio-visual industry [7],

the Chinese version of the RFID standard [8] or the TD-SCMDA in the

telecoms industry [9] have a chance of developing into de facto

international standards, because of China's growing economical

significance in the world.

Paragraph 19 deals with patent examination. It is clear that

patent quality in China has enough room for improvement [10]. In

the document one cannot find surprising new strategies for

trademarks or copyright protection and enforcement. "Stealing

trade secrets it to be severely punished according with law",

paragraph 29 stipulates. But as we will see below, sometimes this

bland language is a prelude to concrete change, although it is


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