See which myths and/or conventional wisdom run counter to this bit of news:
One leading home appliances manufacturer Midea lost a patent lawsuit to one of its archrivals, being ordered to stop the infringing act and pay a fine.
Myth #1: China does not recognize intellectual property rights, and the victim is usually a foreign company. Well, sometimes it is a foreign IP owner, but most cases involve Chinese infringers as well as infringees. If you put a random selection of victims of China IP infringement in a room together, the majority of them would be Chinese.
The Guangdong Provincial Supreme People’s Court upheld the verdict made by the Zhuhai City Intermediate People’s Court, settling the three-year intellectual property dispute between Midea Electric Appliances and Gree Electric, both being listed in the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
Myth #2: Chinese companies don’t care about intellectual property. Here we have two very large, publicly-traded Chinese companies who engaged in a multi-year patent infringement lawsuit. That sounds like a lot of caring to me.
Midea is also subject to a fine of 2 million yuan ($315,000), according to the supreme court ruling.
China’s largest air conditioner producer Gree filed the lawsuit against Midea in 2008, after finding four models of Midea products copied its patented “sleep” function technology, an invention which helps adjust room temperature in users’ sleeps according to their preferences.
The Zhuhai intermediate court decided Midea guilty of the patent infringement in April 2011. Midea, however, appealed to the higher court.
During the litigation, Midea applied to the State Intellectual Property Office to revoke Gree’s patent of invention, but failed in September 2009.
Myth #3: Chinese company portfolios are just filled with “junk patents” that are used for nuisance value in lawsuits. Sometimes, perhaps, but here we have an invention patent that was sufficiently robust to withstand an invalidation challenge. Air conditioning technology may not be rocket science, but we’re talking about a lot of money here.
This case will not make the front page of the New York Times, nor will it probably hit the wire services overnight. No complaints there, it’s not that newsworthy.
Indeed, it’s a very run-of-the-mill IP suit, although the players are heavyweight corporations. But that’s the point. This is the kind of thing you (not to mention government officials) never read about, and the idea that these cases are nonexistent becomes internalized.
But hey, if the only thing you ever see is a headline like this: “Commemorative Shanzhai iPad Has Steve Jobs Rolling in His Grave,” what else are people going to think?
And that’s not a criticism of the press. That Steve Jobs/fake iPad story was interesting, and the Midea/Gree one is kind of a yawner (to most folks).
In other words, aside from writing this post, and distributing it to all three of my readers worldwide, I’m not sure how to effectively debunk these myths.