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Archived updates for Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Harbingers of IP Enforcement in China?

Thanks to the IP Dragon for posting a link to a 1995 review of William Alford's book titled "To steal a book is an elegant offense: Intellectual Property Law in Chinese Civilization." In his review, Guy Yonay points out how points out that Taiwan, which shares much ancient history with the People's Republic of China, has succeeded in developing a intellectual property system:
Professor Alford characterizes Taiwan's new law not as mere capitulation to the West, as most Chinese legal concessions have been, but rather as true change. The author convincingly attributes this change to factors linked to political and technological development. An awareness of the need to foster the domestic technological industry was a major force in this transformation. Once Taiwan began to produce intellectual property, internal forces demanded its protection, and Taiwan needed a legal system to accomplish this. Since, as the book consistently points out, intellectual property law is unlikely without the rule of law, this too needed to be developed. Professor Alford attributes the legal change in Taiwan to a genuine commitment to pluralism and multiparty democracy. In other words, the reason recent legal change in Taiwan was not superficial, is because it came from domestic political and industrial forces.
In fact, mainland Chinese companies may now be getting serious about enforcing their intellectual property rights. According to Roger Parloff writing for Fortune Magazine on March 7, 2006,
A U.S. business achieved a long-anticipated intellectual-property milestone
last month: It became, as far as most legal experts can tell, the first company
sued for patent infringement by a mainland Chinese plaintiff. . . . Only when Chinese companies begin protecting their own patents, copyrights, and trademarks will the notoriously unreliable Chinese courts and enforcement authorities become vigilant in protecting foreign companies’ IP.

The China Law Blog adds that the lawsuit was merely an extension of Netac Technology Company's enforcement activities inside China. "The China Daily article on this lawsuit mentioned that in 2004, Netac won a domestic patent infringement lawsuit against Chinese company Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co Ltd." More recently, several other favorable IPR rulings from China's provinces have been touted by China Daily. However, the bloggers warn that "what radiates from the center of China's government is not always what happens elsewhere in the country." They agree with Micah Sittig that
It is in the Chinese government's best interest (and therefore the Party's
as well) to promote IPR protection as an economic driver, but there are still
large segments of the population who will not benefit from IPR protection just

More on harbingers here.
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