The Confucian Challenge to Intellectual Property Reforms
WIPO Journal, Vol. 4, pp. 1-9, 2012
10 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2012 Last revised: 17 May 2017
Date Written: November 8, 2012
Written for a special issue on intellectual property and culture, this essay examines the longstanding claim that culture presents a major barrier to intellectual property reforms. In the context of Asia -- China, in particular -- that claim invokes Confucianism, a non-Western culture, to account for the region's -- or the country's -- continued struggle with massive piracy and counterfeiting problems. The claim draws on a century-old tradition of condemning Confucianism for being antithetical to Western modernity.
The first half of this essay focuses on the Confucian challenge to intellectual property reforms in China. Drawing on the important distinction between the strong and weak forms of the cultural explanation, this part argues that the latter is more consistent with reality. The second half of the essay expands the discussion to cover other Asian countries. Implicating the decades-old debate on "Asian values", this part points out that Confucianism provides an even greater mismatch with Asian cultures than with Chinese culture. The essay calls for caution in attributing the piracy and counterfeiting problems in Asia to Confucianism.
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