IPR protection key for innovation-driven strategy: political advisors
Intellectual property rights (IPR) protection has been a major point of discussion at the ongoing two political sessions in Beijing, after being emphasized by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as part of his government work report.
"One of my online novels, for example, has a thousand chapters. If we search for it online, there should be one thousand results. But how many global results do we find? 10 million. Which means that there are 9,999,000 pirated results, and 1,000 legitimate ones," says Zhang Wei, a Chinese top-earning online novelist, and also a national committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body.
Thankfully for Zhang Wei, the problem of his pirated book was resolved after law enforcement took steps to uphold his intellectual property rights protection.
"Now all of the pirated versions of my novels have been removed. The interests of us novelists have been protected," says Zhang.
Government policymakers become increasingly aware of the role of intellectual property rights protections in helping to achieve their broader economic goals.
A photo of the Beijing Intellectual Property Court. [Photo: VCG]
"I must say, China has done huge amount of work to protect intellectual property rights, compared to the 90s and even ten years ago when I first came back to China. It's already hugely different," says Professor Shi Yigong, a CPPCC member who got his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
The government launched an outline for a National Intellectual Property Strategy in 2008 when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. In it, it said that the protection of these rights was to become a national strategy.
Professor Shi says that over the past decade, as China has become increasingly innovative, it has demonstrated a serious resolve to develop and enforce effective intellectual property rights protections.
"Because intellectual property rights are so essential for innovation, unless it is properly protected, China will have a hard time finding innovation in its home turf. The government has keenly realized the issue of protecting intellectual property rights and is very actively enforcing the law," says Shi.
The call to enhance intellectual property rights protections has been echoed by Professor Zhu Xiaojin, a CPPCC member who is working on proposals calling for more supervision and management of online content platforms.
"With the development of the Internet, some new phenomena have appeared. In the legal grey zone, Internet infringement issues have emerged. I proposed strengthen the legislation at the CPPCC conference last year. As we can see, a great job has been done in legislation work over the past year," says Zhu.
Recent efforts to discourage violations of intellectual property rights include the introduction of an e-commerce law, which came into effect on January 1 this year.
And several other laws relating to intellectual property rights protections are also being revised.
At a conference held by the CPPCC in January, 12 members and experts in the field of intellectual property rights protection offered their advice on law enforcement and international cooperation in the Internet environment.
"CPPCC members pay a lot of attention to intellectual property rights protections. Their proposals have played a very important role in promoting policymaking," says Du Qian, the chief justice of China's first Internet Court located in the e-commerce hub of Hangzhou, who attended at the conference in January.
According to a white paper from the Supreme People's Court on judicial protections of intellectual property rights, the government has taken key steps towards ensuring fair adjudication in these cases.
Yan Xiaohong, the chairman of the Copyright Society of China, says the protections available in China have undergone a remarkable change.
"People who committed malicious infringements and piracy must be prosecuted for criminal liability. For civil disputes, some intellectual property courts have been established," says Yan.
In October 1995, the Supreme People's Court established its Intellectual Property Division to oversee national cases. In 2014, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou each set up their own intellectual property courts. And in early 2017, Nanjing, Suzhou, Chengdu, and Wuhan launched specialized intellectual property tribunals.
A new system of professional technical investigators has been established, whose expert advisers help judges understand technical aspects of the disputes.
But Yan Xiaohong says that isn't enough, and there is more that could be done.
"We need to strengthen the construction of dispute mediation agencies for copyrights, patents, and trademarks," says Yan.
CPPCC member Zhang Qin, the vice president of the China Association for Science and Technology, says that it's important to remember the purpose behind providing intellectual property rights protections.
"The aim is of course to protect innovation and then to promote innovation. There's also another goal - to promote the spread and application of technology," says Zhang.
As China becomes less reliant on manufacturing, innovation and technology will drive growth in its economy over the next 10 years.
Dr. Gordon Cheung, an expert on China and global political economy at Britain's Durham University, has said that China needs to use intellectual property to evolve from being a "factory of the world" to a "factory of ideas."
He also says that improving the robustness of China's intellectual property protections makes the country a more attractive target for foreign direct investment.