Intellectual Property in the Information Age: American & Chinese Perspectives
Prepared for Penn Volume on the US, China & International Law
17 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2019 Last revised: 24 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 10, 2019
Innovation is widely seen as a key driver of economic success in the 21st century — and therefore a key driver of national power. And while the secret sauce that yields a highly innovative economy is difficult to identify, let alone replicate, robust and broad intellectual property (IP) protection is widely believed to be an essential component. This paper compares the international IP policy of the two largest powers in the world: the U.S. and China. The U.S. is the world’s leading proponent of strict IP regulation. China, by contrast, has long been seen, by the West at least, as the world’s leading IP scofflaw. Yet Chinese observers — indeed, many observers around the world — believe the US is an IP bully that pushes inappropriate legal standards on other nations in an effort to serve the narrow interests of a few key domestic constituencies. There is substantial (though shrinking) divergence in how the US and China approach IP today, and this contrast reflects major differences in national interest and economic conditions. At the same time, American history itself suggests that convergence in IP law and policy will continue to occur, and may well accelerate, as the Chinese economy expands and matures. National power is a function of economic size but also innovation. Unlike the Cold War, when the US and Soviet economic spheres had little economic contact, the US and China are deeply economically intertwined. Those pervasive economic ties define the relationship. Yet the two states remain politically and militarily competitive — increasingly so under the Xi and Trump administrations — and while true conflict is not on the immediate horizon, its prospect drives substantial concern in the US over China’s acquisition of American IP and innovations, the expansion of Chinese tech firms such as ZTE and Huawei, and its overall approach to IP protection.
Keywords: intellectual property, innovation, China, technology, patent, copyright, trademark, WIPO, WTO
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