China’s National Patent Development Strategy (2011-2020)

First, a brief lead in to this blog topic:

In 2006, the Chinese State Council issued both The Guiding Principles of Program for Mid-to-Long Term Scientific and Technological Development (2006-2020) and a notification of a number of accompanying policies on the implementation of the Program. These policies required that improving indigenous innovation be made the most important aspect of all science and technology related work, and that the promotion of indigenous innovation be carried out through tax incentives, financial support and technological investment and so on.

PRC flagIn 2007, in the report of 17th National Congress, the idea to develop and enforce a strategy of Intellectual Property was put forward, and in the same year the Law on Science and Technology Progress was amended to include this concept and further to build a whole system of IP where the government would encourage innovation in technology.

In 2008, the Chinese State Council issued The Guiding Principles on Intellectual Property Strategy. It declared that the country would have progress in the innovation, management and use of IP. Its aims were:
– Indigenous innovation in the whole country should be remarkably improved within 5 years;
– Application and practice of IP should be obviously developed and enhanced;
– Protection of IP should be remarkably improved.

The Chinese government also recently introduced a national campaign (running Oct 2010 to Mar 2011) against violation of IP rights. This action aims at a broad range of infringing activities, including production/distribution of counterfeit goods, “pirating” of various forms of audio-visual media, the import/export of infringing goods, and has a special focus on infringements carried out over the Internet. It also has a particular focus on governmental agencies, with a mandate to ensure that all agencies purchase legitimate business software in their operations.

The National Patent Development Strategy (2011-2020) has been available for some days and comments are starting to roll in. We have linked to a few in our Jan 10 Global Week in Review Highlights. We’ll be sure to track and report others of interest as individuals and organizations digest the potential impact of the proposed measures by the Chinese authorities to enhance it’s IP system and incentivise local individuals, institutions and companies to very actively pursue IP protection and acquisition at home and abroad.

The main purpose of the lead in to the topic is to frame the Strategy document within an overall context. The patent filing targets quoted in the document are indeed quite mind-boggling. However, they are just one aspect of a larger set of aims to build an effective innovation economy.

Naturally, the initiative is primarily self-serving and there are a host of potential consequences as any seismic event of such magnitude will stir up. However, if a strengthening of the local Chinese IP regime can lead to a clamp down on counterfeiting and pirating activities and increased damages for IP infringement, irrespective of who infringed or who owned the IP, then perhaps some of the other potential consequences already worrying commentators are acceptable.

We may well see a tsunami of Chinese patents (invention and utility model), some of highly questionable validity, and we will also inevitably see Chinese companies using their financial muscle to try to purchase core global patent portfolios in new technology areas. There may not be a great deal that foreign entities can do to influence the former event, although through patent office networks and enterprise links some influence may be brought to bear, recognising our own limitations when it comes to patent quality. The latter is a consequence of the times in which we live. Should countries institute patent trade barriers or limit the scope of IP rights that may be transferred to a Chinese entity to protect local industry and access to technology? I’d be very circumspect about any such moves, but it could happen.

Do you see the measures and targets in the Strategy document as a generally positive or negative development? Different technologies may well hold polar opposite views? What’s yours?

 By Lee Caffin and Apeng Shang 

Image by Bax Braun

2 Comments on “China’s National Patent Development Strategy (2011-2020)

  1. It’s a wake-up call for other Economies to do better themselves, and a nice set of guidelines to get started. It’s all about action and if the Chinese are able to act and deliver then they should reap the rewards. The Chinese almost have enough economic strength that any attempts to blacklist or restrict them will backfire, and I’m sure that they have very long memories. About time the one who are concerned delivered for their own interests instead of pondering how to block those who are getting on and doing it.

    Walter @adamson

  2. Thanks Walter. I guess one, perhaps legitimate, concern is that whereas local IP laws and courts in the West are generally impartial to the plaintiff or defendant’s nationality (there are of course exceptions), with this explosion of IP in China and the need for Western companies to invalidate Chinese patents owned by Chinese companies, will we see a level litigation playing field in the Chinese court system? I think the signs are trending in a positive direction from some recent decisions, but welcome further thoughts on this.

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