Careful What You Wish For: Greater IP Enforcement In China Being Used Against Foreign Companies…

from the you-asked-for-it... dept

Supporters of stronger intellectual property laws in other countries ought to be careful what they ask for… they just might get it, and then discover they didn’t really want it after all. For example, for many, many years, US companies have been screaming loudly about how the US should pressure China to be more respectful of intellectual property. China, for example, regularly makes the “priority watch list” of the USTR’s “Special 301” report, which is effectively a catalog of what countries US companies are complaining most about. However, China has suddenly taken an interest in intellectual property in the last few years, and it doesn’t seem to be turning out quite like US companies expected.

First, a few years back, we wrote about a high profile counterfeit DVD bust in China, where the “culprit” was actually a rich American. Then, we noticed in 2008 that China was starting to talk about China cracking down on video game piracy, but only when it concerned others copying China’s video games. Finally, late last year, we noted that a French company had lost a patent lawsuit in China.

It turns out that was just the beginning. Joe Mullin points us to a story about how there have been a series of recent patent and trademark rulings in Chinese courts all of which appear to be going against large multinational companies and in favor of Chinese companies.

Of course, this isn’t a surprise at all. Various studies have shown that greater copyright, patent and trademark protections tend to follow a period of great innovation, when the companies that did that innovation look to protect their position from upstarts elsewhere. In other words, it acts in the exact opposite manner as it’s supposed to. It’s not an incentive to innovate, but a tool used to stop competition and innovation from others. The situation in China is playing out exactly according to that formula. The country is growing into a bigger believer in intellectual property laws — but only for the sake of using it to protect against foreigners — which, we assume, is not what US companies wanted, but which they should have expected if they ever bothered to look at the actual history of stronger intellectual property laws.

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Comments on “Careful What You Wish For: Greater IP Enforcement In China Being Used Against Foreign Companies…”

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12 Comments
Ian Channing (profile) says:

Calling for better arguments against Patents

I agree with the article, but not the last paragraph. In the last paragraph it’s stated – “patent and trademark protections tend to follow a period of great innovation” then “In other words, it acts in the exact opposite manner as it’s supposed to.”

The first statement is blindingly obvious. The innovations allow the inventors to apply for patents. This then doesn’t actually imply the second statement.

What would be useful to see was that innovation drops after a large swathe of patents.

I know patents are abused, but the arguments put in the last paragraph are pretty poor.

Nathan Vegdahl (profile) says:

Calling for better arguments against Patents

I think Mike meant that IP laws themselves become broader and stricter (or come into existence at all) after periods of great innovation. Meaning that the laws didn’t exist as incentive when the innovation happened, but rather were put in place afterwards.

I don’t have a lot of background in that, so I can’t verify it in a broad sense. But it’s certainly true of software patents at the very least.

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