China IP: So Mainstream That It’s Boring

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Quick wrap-up note to the intellectual property conference I attended recently in Boston. I wasn’t planning on writing anything further on the topic, but I received a couple of requests to do so by some interested folks, so I figured I should explain my reticence here.

The conference was the International Trademark Association annual meeting. This is probably the largest annual meeting of IP lawyers (I think 8,500+ official attendees, plus lurkers) worldwide, so it’s a big deal. I’ve been going to these meetings, off and on, since 2000.

In years past, I would go to these things and be assailed by IP lawyers all over the world who wanted to know anything and everything about China. China lawyers drew a lot of attention back then, particularly expat types like me.

Additionally, there used to be a lot to say when someone asked me “What’s new with China IP?” About ten years ago, we had completely revamped trademark, patent and copyright laws. Lots of new regulations, enforcement issues, WTO compliance matters to discuss. It was an exciting time.

That was then, this is now. These days, most of the “new developments” are technical in nature, a decent topic of conversation if you’re talking to a specialist, but otherwise as boring as watching paint dry. Moreover, probably 90% of the people I talked to had been to China multiple times, already had IP counsel (not always happy with their service provider, though), and pretty much knew their way around.

There were still lawyers I met for the first time who were stuck in the “dazzled by China” phase of their education. Those guys asked questions about living in China, about the legal industry, law schools here, etc. Some of them had no local IP counsel, which was a bonus. But these folks were few and far between, a relic of the old days.

So why haven’t I posted a lengthy debrief of the conference? Basically there was nothing much new about it to report. Same old, same old networking and marketing. China IP continues to be a very hot topic of conversation, of course, and everyone has something to say. But now it’s a widespread issue shared by everyone, sort of like talking about the weather or sports.

China IP has gone mainstream.