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[BEIJING] China has launched a national intellectual property rights (IPR) strategy to encourage innovation and strengthen its legal framework in the field.

The National IPR strategy outline, published earlier this month (5 June) by China's State Council, aims to turn China into "a nation with an internationally leading level of creating, using, protecting and managing IPR by 2020".

The strategy aims to boost the number of patents held by Chinese citizens over the next five years.

It also seeks to establish an effective legal protection system for genetic resources and indigenous knowledge.

Although China is one of the world's top three nations in terms of patents issued (see China hits top three in patent applications), most of its patents for invention are owned by foreign companies operating in the country. According to China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), 53 per cent of the 67,948 invention patents issued in 2007 were filed by foreign individuals or companies.

The strategy will see China's government revise laws on patent, trademarks and copyrights. The website of SIPO quoted its head, Tian Lipu, as saying that the new patent law will be submitted to the legislature for approval before the end of the year.

Previous Chinese patent law focused on the protection of the patent, but this revised law will also outline how a patent can be used and benefits shared, as well as how to avoid patent abuses.

The strategy will also seek to increase the ability of government departments and courts to help protect IPR.

Sun Pingping, a spokesperson for SIPO, told SciDev.Net that although there are many existing laws and regulations on IPR, the national strategy can coordinate their functions by guiding their revisions, refining and updating when necessary.

Sun Guorui, an intellectual property law professor at Beihang University in Beijing, says that the main significance of the strategy is it makes IPR creation and use a core value for policymaking.

"For example, in the science community, awards or promotion are given mainly as the result of publishing high-impact papers. But in the future, the number of patents filed can be an important indicator of scientists' output," Sun told SciDev.Net.

He adds that the strategy will need to be followed by more concrete action implemented by different government departments. For example, the health ministry will have to finalise its measures on how to protect the patents of traditional Chinese medicine.