A couple of weeks back, we did a post entitled, Protecting Your IP From China. The Value And The Peril Of Trade Fairs.  In that post, we talked about the benefits of securing a Non Disclosure (NDA) or an NNN (Non Disclosure, Non Compete, Non Circumvent) Agreement from potential Chinese manufacturers, before revealing your trade secrets to them.

Renaud Anjoran, of the Quality Inspection Tips blog did a follow-up post to ours, entitled, China Trade Shows: Don’t Get Your New Product Designs Stolen.  In his post, Renaud points out that using an NDA or an NNN Agreement “is good advice, but not always sufficient. I think this is a case where non-legal strategies are far, far more effective.”

I whole-heartedly half agree.  I agree that a signed agreement is not always going to be sufficient and I also agree that non-legal strategies for protecting your IP from China are absolutely critical.  I just am not sure which is more important between the legal and the non-legal strategies, because I view both to be essential and I think that their importance can vary with the product and other factors.

Be that as it may, Renaud (as usual) raises some valid points, especially his pointing out how many walk around trade shows with fake name cards and how securing a fake signature on a document is not worth much:

Many people walk trade shows with fake name cards. And, even if they identify themselves correctly, they can easily use another company (their supplier, their brother…) to circumvent the agreement. So having them sign any kind of confidentiality agreement on the spot, without checking them up, is a weak strategy.

Renaud then provides a couple of interesting real-world examples of trade show strategies by companies with “sensitive IP”:

One exhibits on a small booth at the Canton fair, and shows only his latest developments in silicon kitchenware. When people stop and show interest, my friend takes their name card, asks a few questions, and says “we’ll be in touch” (he takes the time to check them up before sending them photos, prices, and so on). And he makes sure no photo is taken on the spot. Two people can easily monitor a 9 sq.m. booth.

The other one exhibits on the toy fair in HK. They have a big booth, with a third of the space open to the public and the rest as a private showroom. Only companies they trust are allowed in the showroom where the really unique designs are displayed.

The bottom line for protecting your IP from China: do what you can on both the legal side and the non-legal side to protect your IP from China.  It’s tough out there and the more “weapons” you employ, the better your chances.

What do you think?