May 7, 2013
No one is talking about murder yet, but it’s just a matter of time. The latest food quality scandal in China is humming along steadily at the moment, with accusations flying, arrests being made, and protestations being hastily issued by restauranteurs and others in the food biz.
All this turmoil just because mutton was replaced with rat and fox meat to save a few shekels? Apparently so. As of last month, we only had to worry about whether our lamb was being fried in “gutter oil,” but that’s now old news. These days, you need to worry about whether that “lamb” that’s being fried in gutter oil is in fact lamb or some other animal, perhaps one with whiskers and sharp, pointy teeth.
May 5, 2013
The annual Special 301 Report on worldwide intellectual property protection was recently released by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. I always look forward to this, not only to see what the China section looks like to catch up on big-picture IP issues, but also to get a snapshot of the bilateral situation between the two countries.
This year, it seems to me that the language shows just a bit of frustration on behalf of the USTR authors, which I find leaking out from between the lines. They tried very hard to be as diplomatic as possible, but perhaps just a little too much. I’ll let you be the judge.
May 4, 2013
Um, wow, not sure where to start with this one. Look, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has consistently written for as long as I have that China’s IP situation is improving, that it isn’t as bad as most folks think, and that the stereotypes are generally unfair.
But I also temper that with frequent acknowledgements of the many problems over here with the IP protection system. The situation downright sucks in some geographical areas and industry sectors, and depending on the product and type of IPR in question. When apologists fail to fess up to the problems, they come out sounding pretty lame.
May 1, 2013
As someone who has been writing legal newsletters (or similar) for about 15 years, I speak with authority on this subject. I’ve also helped to train a boatload of lawyers with respect to drafting a variety of documents, both formal and informal.
The problem is that most lawyers are wholly unfamiliar with the concept of “audience.” Let me use the example of acronyms, since this will help me get to the point that much faster. Say you’re a private practice lawyer writing a brief email to your client, specifically an in-house lawyer who specializes in PRC corporate law. Would it be acceptable to use “MOFCOM” to indicate the Ministry of Commerce in that email? I would say yes.
April 29, 2013
Normally I wouldn’t bother you with the news that a case I have already discussed many times has kicked off. No real news to report here, at least not yet. However, after reading the coverage in Xinhua, I just felt obligated to pass along this little treasure from the alleged infringer’s crack legal team:
The defendants argued that the word “Qiaodan” is simply a translation of the common surname “Jordan,” instead of the full name of the former NBA player. The real intention of using the Chinese name “Qiaodan” is to mean “grass and trees in the south,” said lawyers for the Qiaodan Sports.
You might be thinking these guys are hacks, but I’d like to disabuse you of that notion. Only true professionals can issue statements like that with a straight face. That sort of in-your-face, unabashed bullshit is a work of art. I know that if called upon, I would be unable to put forward that argument without erupting into belly laughs. My ass would be fired immediately.
Kudos to those lawyers. They are true professional advocates, and a credit to our profession.
April 28, 2013
A while back, I wrote about the feud between the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) and, well, itself, specifically Beijing (aka headquarters) and its sub-commissions in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The latter two went rogue, with Beijing saying that the “CIETAC” moniker was no longer available to them and that anyone choosing to arbitrate with CIETAC in those locations would have to go through Beijing from now on.
The inevitable break between these organizations has occurred, and now both Shenzhen and Shanghai must go it alone without the valuable CIETAC brand. Good luck to them, but as a recent article put out by law firm Hogan Lovells illustrates quite well, bizarre and complicated branding is not going to help.
April 26, 2013
If I told you to think about intellectual property enforcement in China and asked you what was the first image that popped into your head, I’m betting it would look something like this (courtesy of China Daily):
Nothing is more iconic than the old steamroller picture. It’s also a great symbol of the statistics-driven way the enforcement system here is evaluated, and how futile and unimpressive the simple destruction of a few thousand DVDs is.
As usual, if you can’t see the image for some reason, go to the China Hearsay page directly.
April 22, 2013
The American Chamber of Commerce in China regularly publishes surveys of its members, which routinely include criticism of the government/legal system/business climate and complaints about anything from IP infringement to protectionism. So I’m not too surprised to see this pushback from the Ministry of Commerce put out by Xinhua:
April 15, 2013
Not exactly my most eloquent post title, but really, did anyone out there actually notice that once again, the U.S. Treasury Department decided that China shouldn’t be on the list of currency manipulators? Yes, the wire services ran little blurbs, as did the major papers that have good China coverage. But they were just going through the motions. The only folks who care anymore these days are paid lobbyists and paid politicians, and who gives a shit what they think, anyway?
April 10, 2013
You may recall that Michael Jordan sued a Chinese sportswear company in 2012, claiming that they infringed upon Jordan’s Chinese name and several logos that were similar to those used by Jordan or his sponsors. The case was filed in Shanghai and basically has just sat there for many, many moons (I assume pending settlement negotiations). A minor news blip on the radar today: Qiaodan (it was reported) filed a suit against Jordan.
April 5, 2013
You’ve probably read more than one story about Apple’s current troubles in China. This latest kerfuffle involves a broadside against Apple’s warranty and repair policies by local media (e.g., CCTV, People’s Daily) and at least one consumer agency.
Why have I avoided it? While it’s big news for Apple, and for all you Cult of Mac folks out there (oh yeah, and journalists/pundits), I can’t find anything here that can really be put in the “new” category. In other words, all we’ve got is another huge multinational that is being singled out by the government here.
March 31, 2013
You might remember a strange little case that was filed back in 2011 by some Chinese dissidents in New York. Their
weak ass sadly untested argument was that Baidu was censoring search results such that their anti-China content did not come up when folks did a search. The plaintiffs argued that this was a violation of the U.S. constitution.
While fascinated by the case, I nevertheless said it was a big fat loser, and last week, it was indeed tossed by a New York federal judge. However, the decision did not go to the merits of the case, but rather procedural issues. The case thus appears to be only temporarily dead, but don’t be fooled by this; in fact it’s actually completely dead, as I explain below.
March 30, 2013
After the latest “Why I’m Leaving China” column came out and the usual tongues started wagging, I realized that many of these missives are simply thinly-veiled advertorials. “Hey, I’m leaving China after a bunch of years, and by the way, here’s the name of my new company and a brief bio of my past achievements. If you have some money or an biz opportunity, ping me and we’ll do lunch.”
Congratulations to Marc van der Chijs for getting some free pub, not to mention grabbing yet another opportunity to tell everyone that he can run long distances (enough already, please).
I was glad to see that Matt Schiavenza, international raconteur and friend of the show, responded with an Atlantic blog post, reminding everyone that there is in fact no expat exodus. Someone has to keep the tongue waggers honest — thanks, Matt.
March 30, 2013
Earlier today Marvel announced it will be releasing a Chinese version of its upcoming blockbuster, Iron Man 3, which will differ from the film that audiences outside of China see.
The announcement also included the detail that Chinese actress and singer Fan Bingbing will be cut out of the non-Chinese version of the film. (The Diplomat)
Kudos to Marvel and DMG for rolling with the punches and localizing content to get the most out of a theatrical project. If putting in special bonus “China” content makes Beijing happy and gets the film better distribution over here (and, I assume, more ticket sales), then I guess it’s win-win.
But I’m just wondering what Fan Bingbing feels about all this. Happy to get a paycheck and be part of a big title, sure. On the other hand, kind of a hit to the old ego, eh? “Sorry, honey, you’re good enough for the local version of this flick, but you’re still not up to snuff when it comes to the top international markets. Come back when you grow up.”
If it was me, I’d be kind of pissed off. And if I was representing a top Chinese actor, the next time a foreign studio came calling, I’d insist on a “will appear in foreign release” clause in my contract.
March 28, 2013
I dimly recall talking about this case last year, I believe shortly after the iPad dispute was resolved. I’m too exhausted to poke around in the China Hearsay file room to find my previous post, but I assume I said something like “It’s too early to tell what’s going to happen, and we would need a formal patent analysis before any conclusions could be made.”
Guess what? The Shanghai court convened an evidentiary hearing yesterday and . . . I still have very little to say because we don’t yet have a patent analysis to talk about.
March 23, 2013
Great post by Rachel at Tea Leaf Nation on whether China’s new leaders, some of which have law degrees, will be more likely to work on rule of law issues. My conclusion: maybe, but not because they have law degrees. Most of the post is devoted to netizen chatter on this issue, and I particularly enjoyed these bits:
While some hold high hopes that this means China will usher in a golden age of the rule of law, others are not so optimistic. Many have pointed out that Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro also had law degrees. User @Joey_Gillatt wrote, “If those who studied law would attach more importance to law, then Hitler would have supported the arts, Mao would have supported education for teachers and Stalin would have supported the Russian Orthodox Church.”
March 22, 2013
The decision by China’s government last week to abolish its railways ministry could have three possible consequences, which have raised concerns among the public after plans to scrap the debt-laden and scandal-ridden ministry were initially welcomed. (WantChinaTimes)
The article from which I grabbed that quote is entitled “Public fear higher prices as China’s railways ministry scrapped,” which tells you all you need to know. I don’t have a lot to say here, just a simple observation: of all the concerns that the public have about China’s railways, I think high prices, while important, should probably not be at the top of the list.
Or to put it another way: if because of restructuring, it is less likely that the train you take will end up taking a header off a bridge or smashing head-on into another locomotive, the public will no doubt accept some reasonably higher prices. And let’s try to remain optimistic here; as corruption is one of the reasons for the restructuring in the first place, perhaps there will be some savings in the offing! You never know.
March 21, 2013
Chinese investors snapping up cheap Detroit homes is an old story, so I’m surprised that there are still suckers out there who are throwing good money after bad:
Low property prices in Detroit, United States, have lured global investors, many of them Chinese, to the city keen to join the buying spree, housing agents said.
An agent in Beijing said about 1,000 people called a hotline to join a visit to Detroit last weekend after realizing they can buy a house there far cheaper than in Beiijing, the Beijing Morning Post reported on Tuesday. (China Daily)
March 17, 2013
OK, time to catch up with a few admin issues, not to mention the news. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been spending the past couple weeks in Pennsylvania at corporate HQ getting up to speed on the new professional gig (FYI: I finally updated my bio with details). I’ve been enjoying such learning opportunities as: In-House Counsel 101, Advanced Software Licensing Models, International Corporate Structures and Tax Planning, Zen and the Art of In-House M&A, and many more. (Probably more fun than it sounds, but it helps if you’re already into this kind of thing, which I most definitely am.) Well, it wasn’t as formal as all that, but it was interesting and extremely valuable. Now I return to Beijing to take up my post.
March 10, 2013
I’m feeling like a big cliche at the moment, sitting here at a Starbucks in scenic Exton, Pennsylvania and trying to get a little blogging in between other commitments. Blogging at a Starbucks, surrounded by suburban Americans with their bizarre custom coffee orders — it’s like the first half hour of a Rom Com.
Anyway, everyone (not here, but everyone back in China) has been waiting for the policy shoe to drop from the new government for quite a few weeks now. Just what is the new government going to do in response to the significant challenges in the Middle Kingdom? There have been a couple of speeches but no real action thus far.
And now for something completely different: Beijing is messing with the government’s Org Chart.