Efforts in IPR protection praised by foreign investors

China's great efforts to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) have won praises from foreign investors.

An improving IPR protection system in China has reduced foreign investors' worries about infringement and increased foreign business people's willingness to invest in China, said Masayuki Hosokawa, chief representative of the Beijing Office of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

However, Hosokawa was distressed at the infringement of Yamaha's IPR a year ago.

In August last year, Yamaha lodged a lawsuit against a firm based in Tianjin, a port city in north China, for infringing upon the trademark of Yamaha. Yamaha won the lawsuit and was paid 900,000 yuan (60,000 US dollars) in compensation.

Hosokawa said the just verdict by the Chinese court effectively reduced the risks of investment in China and increased Yamaha's enthusiasm to invest in China.

Over the past year, Yamaha set up a subsidiary, with 100 percent Yamaha financing, in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, which produces and develops spare parts for motorcycles. Yamaha established a joint venture in Taizhou of Jiangsu Province to produce engines in August this year.

Currently, Yamaha is preparing for several other investment projects in China.

Hosokawa's view has been echoed by many foreign investors in China.

Wu Haipeng, with the research and development center of the LG Electronics Tianjin Appliance Co., Ltd., said foreign businesses were active in applying for patents for their products as China exerted greater efforts to protect IPR.

As the biggest subsidiary of LG, of the Republic of Korea, in China, the LG Tianjin company made 1,080 patent applications in the first eight months this year, or 30 percent of Tianjin's total for the same period. Of the total patent applications, 1,075 involved various inventions, accounting for 66.5 percent of patent applications for inventions registered in Tianjin.

Patent applications by business people from developed countries including the United States have grown rapidly in recent years. The top 10 patent applicants in China were all from developed countries and patent applications made by foreign entrepreneurs accounted for almost 20 percent of the total in China.

Patents could protect the key technologies of foreign-funded enterprises and safeguard the competitiveness of foreign-funded enterprises, said Wu Haipeng with LG Electronics Tianjin Appliance Co., Ltd.

The company registered sales totaling 5.4 billion yuan (653 million US dollars), an industrial output value of 13.5 billion yuan (1.63 billion US dollars) and earned 2.5 billion yuan from exports in 2002.

Currently, the third phase project of the company, a microwave oven plant with an annual capacity of 10 million, has been completed at a cost of 230 million yuan (27.81 million US dollars).The fourth phase project is being construction.

China has worked hard to create a sound environment for IPR protection.

Since the Patent Law was enacted in 1985, China has promulgated and amended a series of laws and regulations regarding copyrights, trade marks, computer software and integrated circuits designing.

The Chinese Government has worked out a mechanism under which IPR departments, joined by public security departments, industrial and commercial administrations, copyright bureaus and technologies supervision departments, intensify efforts to crack down on criminal activities against IPR protection.

Wang Cheng, deputy director of Tianjin IPR Bureau, said the joint team in Tianjin discovered and has so far this year handled 35 cases involving infringement of trademarks. The joint team also solved 23 disputes over patents.

In April this year, IPR bureaus of 16 Chinese cities and provinces including Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai jointly set up a mechanism for trans-regional cooperation in IPR protection.

In November, heads of IPR bureaus of 16 Yangtze River delta cities met in Shanghai and swore to make concerted efforts to protect IPR and crack down on infringement acts.

Meanwhile, local governments of China have worked out effective measures to protect IPR.

Central China's Hunan Province holds regular meetings on IPR protection, publishes a white paper on IPR and issues reports on cases involving IPR. Tianjin launched on-line services in April to handle disputes over patents and cases involving fake patents.

Statistics show that IPR and patent administrations of various levels in China handled 1,291 cases involving disputes over patents and industrial and commercial administrations across China handled 39,105 cases involving infringement of trademarks in 2002.

Last year, 6,107 cases involving copyright infringement and disputes were handled and 67.9 million pirated products, such as CDs, LCDs, VCDs and books were confiscated. Courts across China tried 6,201 civil cases involving IPR.

Wang Cheng, the official with the Tianjin IPR Bureau, said better protection of IPR was an important part of a better investment environment and was conducive to the development of foreign trade and absorbing investment.

Statistics available showed that China approved 32,696 foreign-financed enterprises, up 17.99 percent from the corresponding period of last year, in the first 10 months this year. Involved contractual foreign investment totaled 88.683 billion US dollars, a rise of 33.75 percent on a yearly basis. China used 43.556 billion US dollars in the first 10 months this year.

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