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Experts laud China’s IP progress

Updated: Oct 25, 2019 By LIA ZHU in San Francisco China Daily Global Print
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An employee introduces vacuum chamber components to visitors during the SEMICON China 2019 in Shanghai. [Photo/Xinhua]

Lawyers at conference say focus should be on advances, not 'intellectual property theft'

Despite the Trump administration's accusations of "intellectual property theft", legal experts said the US instead should pay attention to China's progress in the field.

"China has made a lot of progress, especially in the last 10 years. It's unfortunate that 'trade war' brings a lot of attention to the negative areas of the relationship, but the IP system in China is a positive area," said Robert Merges, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

"China's IP system is very advanced. Almost all of the requests that the Western countries made in the 1980s and 1990s in the IP area have been met. So this is actually a very positive feature," he said.

"I've met many IP court judges, patent examiners, patent review board judges, Supreme Court judges, IP tribunal judges and patent lawyers in China. Their expertise on IP is very advanced, and I'm very impressed," said Merges.

In fact, specialized IP courts, more access to case results in databases, and more expertise in the Chinese patent office and on the patent review board have made it much better for Western companies to work in China, he said.

Randall Rader, former chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, said he's "very optimistic" about China's progress in IP.

"China has wonderful new courts, very experienced and knowledgeable judges. They have many important policies moving towards a stronger IP system," Rader said. He said both the US and China should work things out so that "Huawei can go back to doing business as it should.

"I hope they can find a way to give Huawei every opportunity to participate in this market as it does in every other," he said. "There is no such thing anymore as an American company or a Chinese company. They are all international companies, and they all have to learn to accommodate their business to different legal environments."

Last year, more than 1.5 million patent applications were filed in China —"something that's unprecedented for the world", said Mark Snyder, senior vice-president and patent counsel at Qualcomm, while attending a conference at Berkeley on Tuesday.

In the US, more than 600,000 patent applications are filed every year, he said.

"The Chinese government has put together an innovation-driven development strategy to apply throughout the country to transition from a factoring economy to an innovation-driven economy," he said.

"And central to this is the national IP strategy, which talks about the importance of IP and filing more IP to achieving some of these innovation goals of the country.

"In the United States, there's nothing like that. I'm not aware of any other country that has placed this kind of attention on innovation and the importance of intellectual property to incentivize innovation," he said.

Understanding the system in China is crucial now, Merges said. "I teach my students in one of my classes about the three major IP regions — US, Europe and China. You have to know about the Chinese IP law if you want to be skilled at IP for your clients who work in a global setting," he said.

It's especially true for the US West Coast because until the trade dispute, the region had witnessed increasing interaction across the Pacific, said Merges.

He said many of his students had their practices on both sides of the Pacific before the US-China trade tension started more than a year ago.

"Maybe you're based in Beijing, but you're three weeks every month in Beijing and one week in Palo Alto; maybe you're based in Palo Alto, you are three weeks in Palo Alto every month and one week in Beijing," he said.

"The practice begins to look more similar. There are clients who are working in both places. It is changing a little bit because of the 'trade war', but still, there are so many established businesses that I can't imagine a complete disengagement," said Merges. "I hope we can go back to more and more normal interaction and resume the growth that we had."

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