IP Protection Discussed at 17th Party Congress

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Tian Lipu, head of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), talked to reporters last week at the Party Congress. Most of his comments were what we’ve come to expect, but there are a few things of interest:

The country’s need for an IPR system was more in response to the needs of sustainable development than to pressure from other countries.

This actually tells us two things. First, China wants everyone to know that IP protection policy is an internal matter and that other nations should shut up about it. The primary audience for this comment is of course the U.S., and the real point here is that the U.S. should not be pushing ahead its WTO suits against China.

Second, Beijing believes that there is a connection between sustainable development (i.e. China‘s continuing economic expansion) and IP protection. Nothing new here but this domestic motivation is important to keep in mind. At least some in the Chinese government have decided that protection of IP is an important part of overall development, including China‘s focus on building innovation capacity.

"IPR infringement is a problem, but it is not as serious as some other countries say," he said. "To a certain degree, the issue has been hyped-up, politicized."

This is a bit more problematic, but essentially I agree with him. I’ve written about this before — whether IP infringement is a huge problem depends on the parties involved, the kind of product, the kind of IP, the geographic location, and a host of other factors. When critics cite infringement as pervasive across all business sectors in very high numbers, this is really incorrect. To the extent that there has been some hyperbolic language about the levels of IP infringement, particularly in the U.S. Congress, then yes, the issue has been politicized.

At the same time, it probably does not help his case for Tian to attempt to downplay the levels of IP infringement. Makes him look like an apologist and someone who is blithely ignoring an "obvious" problem. From a PR standpoint, not so good.