It’s a familiar process; each year the US Trade
Representative releases its
Section 301 report identifying problematic IP jurisdictions
around the world. The named countries, often growing economies,
object to their placement on this list, citing progress made
and willingness to continue improvement.
Last year for example,
Ricardo Blancaflor, the director general of the Philippines
issued a written response to his country’s
placement on the Section 301 Watch List, saying that he was
"saddened" by the inclusion, that the country had made enormous
progress and it had "religiously implemented" its IPR Action
Plan. Ahead of this year’s 301 report, the office
50-page comment highlighting the Philippines’
Many countries respond similarly; Thailand’s IP
office website has an
entire section about the 301 report; while Malaysia was
removed from the 2012 report in part
due to its adopting of US-style DMCA safe harbour
These responses are of course not surprising; the importance
of intellectual property to economic growth is well accepted,
as is the need to harmonise with international standards, which
are of course heavily influenced by countries such as the US
and the UK.
out of China, however, has been a bit different. Though China
openly touts its ambitions to move from a manufacturing-based
economy to one focused on intellectual property and emphasises
the need to improve IP protection, influential Chinese figures
are also telling critics that they need to meet China
At Managing IP’s China
International IP Forum last week, Liu Chuntian (right0,
often credited as the country’s first IP law
professor, told the audience: "When comparing the UK, US,
and Chinese IP systems, we have to be clear minded; China
started from scratch about 30 years ago, and therefore it has a
different foundation from those systems. They have a mature
market, a privatised economy, and their IPR system is in line
with their economy. We had three decades of planned economy and
we’re trying to move away from that. We need more
time to build our system."
Gao Feng of China’s economic crimes unit in
the Ministry of Public Security expressed similar sentiments.
At a speech before the Quality Brands Protection Committee last
week, while highlighting the progress China has made, he
stressed the need for international cooperation in fighting
fake goods, and noted that law enforcement agencies from other
some countries have not been as willing to work together.
Perhaps in response to the continual criticism of Chinese IP
protection, he also argued that counterfeiting is not a Chinese
phenomenon, but that it is part of an international flow of
goods and a common feature in the economic development of many
Neither Liu nor Gao are anti-harmonisation; Liu frequently
engages with judges and scholars to study their
countries’ IP systems to draw on their best
practices, while Gao regularly works with international rights
holders and organisations such as the QBPC. Both expressed
belief in the need for improvements to the Chinese IP system.
But their comments are illustrative and perhaps reflect a new
and uniquely Chinese reality; while smaller countries work to
comply with international standards, China, while doing that,
also has the clout to change the standards themselves.
Speaking to Managing IP later on, Liu summed up this point
succinctly: "Other countries may have to accept that China is
getting bigger and have to adjust their own ideas, instead of
always expecting China to change."