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Jack Chang, GE and Quality Brands Protection Committee: Front-line soldier

Jack Chang and the QBPC show that to protect IP in China, communication is key

Chang’s work has helped communicate a lot of Chinese regulation

While the opportunities in China's rapidly growing economy continue to draw the attention of international companies, its reputation for difficult IP enforcement still makes rights holders wary. Jack Chang, senior IP counsel at GE and a self-described "front-line IP soldier", has worked to make China a more IP-friendly place.

To this end, Chang and the Quality Brands Protection Committee (QBPC), an industry group with over 200 multinational members, has not only lobbied for laws and regulations protecting IP rights, he has also worked to maintain lines of communication between foreign companies and the government to build working relationships and clear up misconceptions that might hinder foreign investment.

"The QBPC tries to be a bridge between foreign companies and the Chinese government", says Chang.

He points to one example where the QBPC played an important role in helping foreign companies improve their understanding of China. In 2010, the QBPC engaged the Ministry of Science and Technology concerning the so-called indigenous innovation policies, which would have required government procurement to favour products based on Chinese-developed IP. Chang and the QBPC helped convince the government that such policies could "also negatively impact on China's efforts to become an innovative country, as it discourages foreign companies in investing in R&D".

Finally in January 2011, President Hu Jintao announced that the rules would be discarded. Various ministries issued orders in June 2011 to implement Hu's directive, and eventually, the State Council issued its own order announcing the end of the procurement rules.

"We had heard concerns that the Chinese government had been pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technologies to local firms"

Chang said, however, that some foreign trade associations were still reporting in early 2012 that the rules were in effect at a local level, causing concern that foreign companies were operating at a disadvantage. The QBPC quickly moved to address these misperceptions, and also worked with both Chinese and foreign government officials to dispel any misunderstanding.

"One of our most important tasks is to keep foreign companies in the loop," says Chang. He sees the QBPC's continuing role of communicator as its most vital.

As foreign companies increase investment in China, technology transfers issues are increasingly important. "Foreign IP owners often worry whether their technology is protected when they bring it into China, and are sometimes hesitant to license their technology to local companies," says Chang.

"We had heard concerns that the Chinese government had been pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technologies to local firms in exchange for market access", he said, though after thorough investigation, he found no evidence of this.

Still, Chang sees this belief as an obstacle to investment and is working to address both the perception and the reality. He and the QBPC are working with a number of academics in Beijing, as well as courts in southern China.

"GE and other innovation-driven companies care very much about this issue," he says. "I believe that one way to address the US-China trade imbalance is to promote the technology trade between the two countries, so we need to address these concerns to remove obstacles in technology transfer and to continuously work with the government to foster open innovation and improve IP protection."

Chang's influence on IP in China has grown and evolved, much like the QBPC's role. Though the group was initially named the China Anti-counterfeiting Coalition and started with this narrower purpose, the relationships that Chang has built have allowed the group to represent IP owners in a wide variety of ways.

Further reading:

Ten years of fighting fakes
China's counterfeit crackdown – the verdict
US report on China's indigenous innovation slammed

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