I have a young relative who has for quite some time been “a challenge” for his parents. For years, whenever we would get together, we would all start out, charitably enough, by spending around thirty seconds talking about how “he’s getting better.” For the next ten to fifteen minutes we would then enumerate all the things he had done that made us all feel good he was not our child.
China’s intellectual property protection tends to get the same treatment. There seems to be near universal agreement that things are getting better in China, and yet the focus is always on how bad things are. The International Trademark Association (INTA) is putting on its 131st annual meeting in Seattle this week and since I am nearly fully booked for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with someone attending, I figure I am going to be getting asked a lot about China’s progress on IP.
My answer will be as follows:
Trademark. Much, much better than widely believed. Much (though certainly not all) of what you hear a about foreign companies having trademark enforcement problems in Chinese courts is due either to their own mistakes in not registering their trademark or in not vigorously enforcing them. Proof of the value of China’s trademarks is that the Sanlu name just sold for more than a million dollars.
Copyrights. Yes, it’s bad out there. But it is getting better. So much so, that now, nearly without exception, we are telling our software clients that they should register their copyrights in China. Proof is that the Wall Street Journal’s China Blog just did a post entitled,
Global Software Piracy Gets Worse, But China Improves.” The gist of the story is that in 2004, 90% of the software in China was pirated but that declined to “only ” 80% in 2008.
Patents. Patents are doing about like copyrights. Things are pretty bad, but things are getting better…..
What are you seeing?