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Outstanding achievement award – Tian Lipu, former commissioner of SIPO

Peter Leung

Tian Lipu, the former commissioner of SIPO, will receive Managing IP’s lifetime achievement award at the China International IP Forum 2014 on June 12 in Beijing

Tian Lipu

Those who work in intellectual property are often interested in the idea of innovation, that new creative endeavour that can upend industries and opens new markets. However, for some of the most successful IP, such as a market-dominating brand or a breakthrough technology, there is a life after that first shakeup. Once past this initial disruption, there are often new markets that develop in new and unforeseen ways.

Apple’s string of successes in the last decade is a good example. The market dominance of the iPod eventually led to the iPhone, which of course ended up reshaping the personal smartphone market. Furthermore, a number of secondary markets, such as digital music and app stores, grew out of these core innovations.

Though Tian Lipu is no longer the head of SIPO, his time leading China’s patent office resembles this pattern in several ways. A seemingly perennial fixture on Managing IP’s Top 50 list of the most influential people in IP, both SIPO and China underwent massive changes under his tenure. The raw numbers are worth noting; in 2013, SIPO received 2.38 million patent applications, including invention, utility model and design patents. In 2005, the year Tian took the helm, it received a little less than 500,000 applications.

Much of this explosion stems from China’s general economic growth as well as its National IP Strategy, which looks to transform the manufacturing-dominant economy to one driven by innovation. Tian played a major role in overseeing this plan and helping to bring many of the patent-related goals into fruition.

For example, during his time at SIPO, the patent office dramatically increased the number of examiners on staff, worked to usher in a major revision of the patent law and oversaw programmes to increase the level of indigenous innovation (programmes admittedly not without their critics). These are just some of the things that Tian was responsible for during his time at SIPO.

Despite all these accomplishments, there is much left to be done. The National IP Strategy is in its next phase, as China continues to move towards its goal to transform the economy to one based around sustainable innovation. In this sense, what Tian has worked to build can be considered the foundation of what is yet to come. Like a market-changing piece of IP, his accomplishments at SIPO will be built upon by his successors, who will bring their own perspectives into encouraging innovation in China. However, no matter what developments we see from China in the coming years, it is almost certain that what Tian’s influence will continue to be felt.

Managing IP’s China International IP Forum 2014 will take place this Thursday at the Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng Hotel. For those interested in registering for the event, please email


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