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Guest blog: Gwilym Roberts on the IPO’s mission to China

Last week saw a delegation from UK IPO and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visit China. CIPA Council member Gwilym Roberts reports on the trip

The $21 billion flotation of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has again focused the minds of commentators on the continuing difficulties the IP system faces in China. However, there is plenty of good news and the recent IPO/FCO delegation to China achieved both short-term and long-term goals not least in relation to Alibaba itself.

The delegation was headed by the new IP minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe (pictured, right), with judicial weight added by Mr Justice Colin Birss and further expertise contributed by the IPO, CIPA (myself), ITMA (represented by Catherine Wolfe of Boult Wade Tennant; Rachel Wilkinson-Duffy of Baker & Mackenzie; and Rob Furneaux of Sipara) and industry representatives. The goals of the mission were many: to ensure that the UK’s IP needs in China were well understood; to build stronger relations between the countries at multiple levels; and to extoll the virtues of the UK and European IP systems. The trip was also ambitious in its scope. The delegation took in eight cities in five days and spoke to officials from central government as well as the staff of regional patent offices, universities and local businesses. That allowed the delegation’s message to be spread at every level and a whole range of new links to be built.

CIPA was delighted to be represented throughout, with an opportunity to speak at the Beijing IP symposium on day one and to meet officials and business partners in Suzhou, Nanjing and Hong Kong. We have returned with stronger links to both national and local patent offices and enforcement units as well as patent attorney associations and academic institutions, all of which will help to strengthen the UK’s reputation as a global patent quality hub. The IPO’s international reputation will only have been strengthened by the opportunity to exchange best practices. Andy Bartlett (a patent specialist), Nathan Abraham (trade marks) and Andrew Davidson (international development) all spoke authoritatively on various IP-related issues during the visit.

The visit was not all top-down stuff – there were significant specific achievements. Signing an agreement with Alibaba to assist in cracking down on counterfeiters was timely and one of the many highpoints of the trip. It also illustrates how seriously enhancing the IP regime is taken on both sides. CIPA was delighted to be part of the delegation and is proud of what it is already achieving.

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