Five Oft-repeated Questions About China's Recent Rise as a Patent Power
37 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2013 Last revised: 29 Apr 2013
Date Written: February 11, 2013
Policymakers, industries, commentators and the media have widely criticized China for its failure to adequately protect intellectual property rights. In recent years, however, the discourse on intellectual property developments in China has slowly begun to change. Such a change is the most notable in the patent area. Today, China is already among the top five countries filing patent applications through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). In 2011, the number of PCT applications increased by 33.4% to 16,406, earning China the fourth spot, behind only the United States, Japan and Germany. Among all the applicants, ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies had the largest and third largest number of PCT applications, respectively. In the National Patent Development Strategy, the State Intellectual Property Office also set a target of having 2 million patent applications per year in China by 2015.
In view of these major developments in the patent area, it is high time we rethink the accuracy and suitability of the traditional discourse on intellectual property developments in China. To help achieve this feat, this Article focuses on five key questions that I have been repeatedly asked in presentations or conferences exploring recent intellectual property developments in China. These questions cover issues ranging from patent quality to indigenous innovation policies to the changing educational environment. As the answers will suggest, the future of the Chinese intellectual property system is rather complex. This future reflects neither a rosy picture of China’s "great leap forward" in the intellectual property arena nor a continuously gloomy picture of pirates and counterfeiters. Instead, the picture is dualistic and highly dynamic. It includes both yin and yang--the yin of continued massive piracy and counterfeiting and the yang of China’s rise as a patent power.
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