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Beijing tops IPR protection index, challenges remain

By Wang Xinyuan (Global Times)

08:04, June 21, 2012

Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong rank top three in terms of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, according to the China IPR Index 2012 report released yesterday by Beijing-based Intellectual Property Publishing House. But challenges remain for the overall enforcement of IPR protection, experts said.

The report tracks the comprehensive performance of China's provinces, municipalities and regions in terms of intellectual rights protection.

The rankings are consistent with the local economic strength. Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, which have high local GDP growth, are ranked among the top five, according to the report, with their rankings unchanged from last year. Qinghai and Tibet are among the lowest-ranked.

IPR include trademark, patent, copyright, and trade secret rights. Though China has been the top country in terms of trademark registration for 10 years with nearly 6 million registered trademarks, it has been regarded as a minefield of murky rules and trademark squatters.

Trademark squatting is a problem in China, said Wang Qian, an IPR professor with East China University of Political Science and Law.

Some individuals and enterprises tend to be opportunists by applying for a well-known foreign trademark that has not yet been registered or used in China. "There is a lack of effective measures to prevent such behavior," Wang told the Global Times yesterday.

To avoid legal troubles, Facebook has reportedly registered more than 60 variations of its name even before it enters China.

Meanwhile, poor IPR protection has led to a lack of innovation. A majority of patents in China are registered for improving already existing products instead of original designs and inventions, according to Wang.

Difficulties in gathering evidence is one of the impediments in patent protection, David Chen, a patent lawyer, whose clients are mostly foreign biotechnology firms, at Ropes & Gray LLP, told the Global Times.

Information on the production processes, evidence needed to prove patent infringement, is not readily available in China, unless a lawyer gets support from the court to investigate the factory, Chen noted.

But sometimes it is impossible to find out even with the court support, because of weak rules and enforcement, he said.

IPR protection is rated as the fifth most significant regulatory obstacle for doing business in China, according to the latest Business Confidence Survey released by the European Union Chamber of Commerce (EUCCC) on May 29.

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