Contrary to popular opinion, China has made good progress on intellectual property (IP) rights in the last 20 years, says Ian Harvey.
IP rights for foreigners in China are of good standard and quicker to obtain than in the European Union. And a 20-year lifetime patent is ten per cent of the price of patents in the Group of Eight countries.
But China is a huge country, so the quality of courts and respect for IP law varies, says Harvey. Corruption is part of the problem, especially in the least developed provinces. But in 2004, over 90 per cent of patent litigation cases brought by foreigners were decided in favour of the foreign patent holder — compared with 35 per cent in the United States.
Many of the IP problems experienced by Western companies in China are caused by a lack of understanding, says Harvey. For example, many do not register their rights locally — so they have no "right" to enforce. He says that foreign companies must have IP representation on the ground to better understand local processes and speed up approvals.