Last year, while back at my law school on a speaking engagement, a Chinese law student made the comment that I am always negative on China. I felt really bad about that and insisted that I am neutral and just calls ‘em as I see ‘em. Since then, however, whenever I am quoted defending China’s legal system, I think of that student.
I thought of that student today when I read a China Daily article that has me defending China’s intellectual property protections:
Dan Harris, founding member of Asia-focused commercial law firm, Harris & Moure, based in Seattle, says Chinese courts are starting to get tougher on IPR violations and while that is a good thing, particularly with respect to trademarks, the courts also need to be tougher in enforcing them.
“China’s laws are fine. It’s not just a question of the laws. It’s really a question of implementation. A lot of times it’s a question of implementation not just by the Chinese government but by companies that are doing business in China.”
“A lot of times foreign companies complain about IPR in China, when in reality it was the foreign company that made the mistake of not sufficiently protecting it intellectual property rights when it went to China.”
Harris says China is a lot better now compared to a decade ago, because the country is getting wealthier, and because Chinese companies are starting to become more conscious about IPR.
“I am of the view that countries start doing well with IPR when their own powerful companies really start caring about it. And I’ve seen this progression elsewhere, such as in Japan and South Korea.
“The reality is nobody is going to be able to force China to improve its IP from the outside, but big companies within China, like Haier, Huawei, and Lenovo can do so,” he says.
In fact, Chinese companies, though largely defendants, have a good record of winning IPR cases overseas. Huawei, which has been involved in many disputes with strong rivals such asMotorola and ZTE, provides a good example.
“Interestingly enough, in my experience, Chinese companies that come to the United States take IPR protection more seriously than American companies that go to China,” Harris says.
“I think a lot of the reason for that is because in the United States certain IPR protections are automatic without any need to file for them. So when Chinese companies come over here, in most cases they are prepared to file, whereas when the Americans go over to China, oftentimes they neglect to IPR do the necessary filings.”
Not saying China IP protections are great overall (because they certainly are not), but I am saying that if you are a foreign company and you fail to take the necessary steps to protect your intellectual property in China, it’s your bad, not China’s.
What do you think?