Sophisticated Chinese IP Profession on the Rise

The IP profession in China may be young by global standards but, as in so many other fields of endeavour, the Chinese are proving to be formidable students.

This week, Watermark is attending the 4th China IP Counsel Conference in Shanghai. China first adopted IP laws in 1979, and the low average age of the 150 attendees at this conference reflects that IP is a relatively new concept in China. However local Chinese IP counsel representing global companies such as Unilever, St Gobain, DuPont and Dow and well known Chinese companies such as Sany Group, SMIC, HTC, Huawei and ZTE are hearing about sophisticated intellectual asset management strategies from speakers with international experience, including a number of Chinese nationals who have been trained in IP at US universities and in US corporations before returning to China to take up roles locally.

Excellent presentations have discussed

  • the concept of patent “trolls” or Non Practising Entities and the creation of both defensive and aggressive strategies for managing the emergence of NPE litigants in China
  • the value of patent information in informing forward looking R & D and business strategy
  • the critical role of in house counsel and of external advisers in creating an IP savvy workforce that is encouraged in formal ways to innovate to the betterment of the corporation
  • open source and the value of symbiotic IP relationships

Interestingly, most presentations are focussed on sharing practical tips for creating a culture of excellent intellectual property management, particularly around patents. There is less emphasis on the finer particulars of the law. This is not to say that there is no respect for the law. On the contrary, many speakers have emphasised the need for respect of both the law and of collaborators and competitors alike. A vibrant culture of collective improvement and collaboration is very evident.

It is no secret that the Chinese Government, as part of its current 5 year plan, has an extensive incentive program in place for both patent applicants and the training of patent specialists. The politics of China are very different to those of countries advanced in their understanding of intellectual asset management. However, the level of excitement, sophistication and collaboration demonstrated at the conference, presumably underpinned by the Government’s incentive programs and the rapid growth of an IP culture in China are testament to the wisdom of the Chinese government’s innovation policies.

This writer has previously held the view that innovation in the strategic management of intellectual assets, and the leading edge in practising these strategies, were to be found in the US. The experience of this conference suggests that while this may yet be the case, the youthful IP profession in China will likely also be a key player in the IP world in future.