China’s Latest IPR Enforcement Rhetoric

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I bring you this news as a public service. Otherwise, there is little reason to discuss the latest promises by MOFCOM functionaries, unless you’re an optimist. Anyway, here’s what was bandied about yesterday:

The nation will impose flexible fines that are multiple the values of infringed goods, moving away from fixed amounts, Vice Chinese Commerce Minister Jiang Zengwei said at a briefing in Beijing today. China will amend its criminal law to make it more effective in fighting piracy, and improve evidence rules to aid owners of intellectual property, he said.

Interesting timing, by the way. The US Trade Representative’s annual report on China WTO enforcement issues came out yesterday as well. I have no knowledge whether this timing was by design; the government here certainly came out with several articles in the State media today designed to counter the USTR report.

No, I still haven’t read the USTR report . . . check back with me this weekend.

As to the substance of that above quote, it would certainly be helpful if damage awards were higher here, particularly in copyright cases. However, I feel as though we are going around in circles on some of these issues.

Prior to the last round of Copyright Law amendments, the problem was that in cases where the IP owner had trouble proving sales figures, damages would be minimal. So a change was introduced to allow for statutory damages, so that judges could award fixed amounts instead.

Granted, those fixed amounts (e.g. RMB 500,000) could be a lot higher, particularly in cases of large-scale infringement, but at least this is an available remedy when damages can’t be proven.

What do we get with “flexibility”? I don’t know what was meant here, because unless evidentiary rules are changed that would make it easier to prove up damages, then we’re back with the statutory damages approach. {melodramatic sigh}

By the way, in the Bloomberg article where I found that quote, the reporter went to the usual source, the Business Software Alliance, for reaction. Fair enough, I suppose, although one wonders why these guys can’t develop some more independent sources.

Additional to the quote, though, were some passages taken directly from BSA source material without any critical analysis. For example:

While the percentage of pirated software in China has declined, from 79 percent in 2009 and 92 percent in 2003, its value has increased as the Chinese software market expanded, the [BSA] report showed.

The numbers are fine, but it would have been useful to point out that not only does an expanded market lead to higher piracy levels on a product value basis, but it also means that industry is making more money! Jeebus, some balance please.

Finally, and this is mostly just for fun, I enjoyed this bit of blather that Bloomberg shouldn’t have bothered to keep in. Note that this only sounds stupid in English (well, more stupid):

Websites involved in counterfeiting and infringement will be “rectified” and companies producing unauthorized duplications of CDs and DVDs will be “sorted out,” the State Council said.

That doesn’t exactly educate the reader about anything.

2 responses on “China’s Latest IPR Enforcement Rhetoric

  1. S.K. Cheung

    It certainly seems to be the latest round of rhetoric. But there doesn’t seem to be anything substantive with regards to actual enforcement.