I have a young relative who has for quite some time been “a challenge” for his parents. For years, whenever we would get together for family events, 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 one or more of the international IP lawyers attending, I figure I am going to be getting a steady stream of questions about China’s progress on IP.
My answer will be as follows:
Much better than widely believed. Much (though certainly not all) of what you hear about foreign companies having trademark enforcement problems in Chinese courts is due either to their own mistakes in not registering their brand names in China or in not vigorously enforcing their China trademarks. Proof of the value of China’s trademarks is that the Sanlu name just sold for more than a million dollars.
Yes, it’s bad out there. But it is getting better. So much so that our China IP lawyers now — nearly without exception — recommend our software clients register their copyrights in China. The Wall Street Journal’s China Blog just did a post,
Global Software Piracy Gets Worse, But China Improves. the gist of the which is that in 2004, 90% of software in China was pirated but that declined to “only ” 80% in 2008.
Patents are doing about like copyrights. Things are pretty bad, but things are getting better…..
What are you seeing?