Forbes Magazine (which, BTW, does a consistently excellent job in covering China) has a new and interesting article out, entitled, “U.S. Talks Up WTO Piracy Ruling, But It’s All Wind” and subtitled, “Washington claims that the trade body took its side in a suit against China, yet the decision will not halt intellectual property theft.”
The article talks about how the United States government has been playing up its victory on two of its three claims, but since it lost the one really important one, its victory claim is little more than spin control. To grossly oversimplify, the WTO ruled that China’s criminal IP laws are not inconsistent with China’s WTO obligations.
China Law Blog’s own Steve Dickinson is extensively quoted downplaying the U.S. “victory”:
The U.S. claim was trivial and hyper technical. They won on the hyper technical issue. The only serious issue was the criminal sanctions issue, and they lost on that one. So what this means is exactly nothing,” said Steve Dickinson, a Qingdao, China-based lawyer and partner at Harris Bricken.
Moreover, piracy involving China’s own copyrighted films, music and other works is just as rampant as that for foreign-licensed goods. “If China cannot solve the problem for their own domestic industries, how can they solve it for the foreigners?” Dickinson asked. Indeed, Chinese copyright owners are as unhappy as American ones: the Music Copyright Society of China and domestic record companies last year sued popular Web portal Baidu for offering unlicensed music content.
This goes back to something we have been saying on this blog since its inception: China is getting tougher on IP violations and it will continue to do so in tandem with growing IP requirements of its own companies. IP in China is going to be much more closely tied to its own self interest, as opposed to the dictates of outsiders. Chinese companies are increasing their demands for IP protection within China, and as that continues we can expect to see IP protections in China continue to improve. But very, very slowly.