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[BEIJING] Chinese research institutes and companies conducting state-sponsored scientific research are being required to tighten up their management of intellectual property rights (IPR) following the announcement of new regulations this week.

The rules, which come into effect immediately, were issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology on 11 May. They require all organisations – both public and private – that undertake new state-funded scientific projects to have special departments, staff and funds for intellectual property protection.

In passing the regulations, China is going beyond its IPR obligations as a new member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Ministry sources say that the new rules will help stimulate and safeguard technological innovation, and speed up the commercialisation of new technologies.

Under the regulations, before initiating research, institutes must investigate whether any patents have been taken out on similar research – either in China or abroad – to avoid duplication. Furthermore, they will have to alter their plans if the anticipated results of their research projects have already been patented.

Tian Lipu, vice-commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office, says that due to a lack of awareness of intellectual property protection, some institutes have been duplicating research already carried out elsewhere. Many research institutes also put too much effort on publishing academic papers about new technologies instead of applying for patent protection and commercialising their research results, he says.

As a result of the new regulation, researchers will now be required to take IPR training courses before starting technological projects. In addition, research institutes that undertake large scientific projects of international significance will receive government subsidies when applying for patents abroad.

"Domestic companies still concentrate on lower-level patent applications, such as traditional Chinese medicine, soft drinks and food," Tian says. "They should make greater effort to develop patented technologies in such fields as optics, information technology, wireless transmission and mobile communication".

China implemented its Patent Law in 1985, and revised the law for the second time in 2000, bringing the law closer to the requirements of TRIPs – the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights – under the framework of the WTO. The country also greatly tightened up its trademark and copyright laws before it joined the WTO in 2001.