Greater respect for IP in China

Greater respect for IP

The following extract was written by Ceri Wells – Partner at James & Wells Intellectual Property.  Ceri represents New Zealand on the Trade Marks Committee of the Asian Patent Attorney AssociationEmail Ceri at

This article first published in New Zealand Business.

As China moves from an economy based on cheap manufacture — copying or importing foreign technologies — to a country founded on innovation and licensing out technologies, it is inevitably becoming more respectful of intellectual property rights. This is necessary if China expects the intellectual property rights it is investing in, to be respected and of value.

This has been seen in the support the Chinese Government is giving to cracking down on the manufacture of counterfeit product and the abuse of foreign intellectual property rights. Many areas of China now provide for specialist Courts which deal only with intellectual property rights.

While it must be accepted that China is a very large country and that respect for intellectual property — and the enforceability of intellectual property rights will vary from region to region — my experience is that it is becoming easier and easier to prevent IP infringement, with the main difficulty now being the sheer size of the market.

The reality is that with a population of over a billion people, it is difficult to stamp out the abuse of all rights, but then that holds true for many cities in the world, including New York, where itinerant street vendors will still try to sell you counterfeit watches and sunglasses on busy streets.

Intellectual property rights are not difficult to obtain in China. There is no unwillingness on the part of the Chinese Intellectual Property Office to grant those rights. There is however a lack of experience on the part of examiners and the Chinese attorneys you must use as agents, many of whom don’t yet appreciate such things as the complexities of patent claim drafting or who for cultural reasons are reluctant to challenge official assessments of the validity of an application. It is important to know your IP agents well in China to ensure you are obtaining strong enforceable rights.

New Zealand businesses with products or technology which could be manufactured and/or sold in China will miss huge opportunities during the life of their intellectual property rights if they do not own and control those rights in China.

New Zealand companies will find it difficult to licence the manufacture of a product without some IP rights, and even more difficult to do so without getting ripped off. Businesses who question the value of obtaining IP rights based on old prejudices, need to think again.

The importance of IP is rapidly being appreciated in China and this is being matched by a Chinese IP community which is just as quickly growing in size and competence. This growth is enabling local and foreign companies doing business in China to more easily identify, capture, protect and exploit their new ideas and innovative products and services.

Expert IP advice from a specialist IP firm with proven experience in China is essential to help businesses develop their IP strategies to gain maximum advantage from what will be New Zealand’s most important market in the future.