Once Again, China Is About To Use The US's Obsession With 'Intellectual Property' Against Us

from the and-we-walk-right-into-it-every-fucking-time dept

You've heard the narrative of course: China is supposedly terrible on intellectual property, always copying the US and swiping our secrets. This has been the popular narrative over the last few decades, with politicians and other folks continuously insisting in strong terms about how we need to get China to "respect our intellectual property." Early on we warned folks that this wouldn't end well, and so far we've been exactly right. Unlike many supporters of our patent and copyright systems, China actually recognizes that those systems are mercantilist forms of monopoly protectionism, and if there's a country out there that knows how to leverage such protectionism, it's China. And here's the ridiculous gift that the US has handed China: in demanding that it better "respect" patents and copyright, it gifted China the key to being protectionist in a manner that the US can't really complain about. It's a tremendous self-own by US policymakers, but it keeps happening.

We warned about this a decade ago when we pointed out that China was rapidly patenting stuff, and using all those patents to make a giant public display about how it was now "respecting patents." But, in practice, it was using those patents to block American competitors and to even block US companies in other countries. To China, its patent strategy is not about greater innovation, it's about using the monopoly-powers that (inexplicably) Americans are demanding China "respect" as an economic weapon against non-Chinese companies.

That's why it's astoundingly short-sighted that the USTR continues to target China in its silly Special 301 report. We've talked about this report for years. It's the report that the USTR comes out with every year, based solely on anecdotes and industry associations whining about this or that country -- and putting them on a "list" that has no practical impact other than that US diplomats are supposed to whine to the governments of those countries. While the list is sometimes used to browbeat smaller countries into changing their local copyright or patent laws, larger companies literally laugh it off. Canada, for years, has publicly explained that it completely rejects the USTR's methodology in the Special 301 report, and thus doesn't consider its findings to be legitimate. And Canada is less of an economic powerhouse than China.

All that is prelude to China now going on the attack against the US (one of many attacks, thanks to our President kicking off what he promised would be an "easy" trade war), claiming that the USTR's naming of China on the Special 301 Report is a political attack on China:

Chinese state media on Monday criticized the United States for its complaints about intellectual property theft, calling them a “political tool” intended to suppress China’s economic development.

Yeah, because in China, intellectual property totally is a "political tool," so why wouldn't they expect the same to be true in the US?

An op-ed article in the People’s Daily targeted the Section 301 report Washington issued in March 2018, saying the authors fabricated the claim that China stole hundreds of billions of dollars worth of intellectual property from the U.S.

“If the report is based on imagined or selective data, it’s a kind of science fiction novel,” it said.

“Intellectual property rights should be a bridge for innovation and cooperation among countries. In the hands of the U.S. it has become a political tool, a weapon to contain other countries, and a veil for bullying the world.”

First off, the "science fiction novel" line is pretty good (and possibly a nod towards the growing success of science fiction in China with Liu Cixin's books and movies based on his books becoming a cultural phenomenon there).

But, more importantly, all that the US has done over the past few decades is to teach China how to use patent and copyright law for political purposes, and now that Trump is so focused on this ridiculous trade war, watch out for China to leverage our own demands about intellectual property against the US.

Filed Under: china, copyright, intellectual property, patents, special 301 report, trade war, ustr


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  • icon
    FlatZOut (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 12:12pm

    Years that end with 9

    There always has been the theory that years that end with 9 are years of bad luck. I hope you see by the example about this Trade War that this is more than a coincidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Netwit Orthodox Techies -- the NOTs of Techdirt, 30 May 2019 @ 12:30pm

      Re: Years that end with 9

      That's some nice numerology nonsense ya got there.

      I'll go with view that They (globalists) have decided that SOON is time to collapse economic systems and implement various long-prepared goals, for which the Trade War will be taken as cause and give Them cover. -- It is indeed like 1929 with the fiat money supply obscenely inflated, stock market prices not at all tied to even profits any more, and especially in that people refuse to learn that The Rich are always scheming for total control, and have the means to bring about chaos, out of which they will create a New World Order.

      You won't be calling me a kook in ten years, kids. Not when live in total surveillance under corporate masters of Facebook / GOOGLE / Amazon.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 12:20pm

    China is stealing our ideas..

    ..about how to use the fake idea of "intellectual property". Something must be done!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Netwit Orthodox Techies -- the NOTs of Techdirt, 30 May 2019 @ 12:23pm

    SO, China IS "always copying the US and swiping our secrets"!

    You state so in last paragraph.

    Rest is a melange of your UN-Constitutional anti-copyright and anti-patent views, with underlying attack on any US nationalism to protect our folk from competing with slave labor...

    ... capped off with your constant smug: "I've been right all along that protecting intellectual property is a huge mistake". -- But of course you can't claim that China would be LESS "always copying the US and swiping our secrets" without copyright and patents! You end up your usual self-contradictory.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 12:37pm

      Re: SO, China IS "always copying the US and swiping our secrets"

      with underlying attack on any US nationalism to protect our folk from competing with slave labor...

      China did not gain its current position because US companies moved production there because the slave labour saved them money. The would not have done that under any circumstances would they?

      (By the way blue, the above is sarcasm.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 12:52pm

        Re: Re: SO, China IS "always copying the US and swiping our secr

        And the corps love paying Min wage to most of the USA. It used to be 60% of the nation, then the STATES got pissed because So many poor couldnt pay their bills, and Made STATE min wages in much of the USA.. AS WELL as the corps dont like being on a list of LOW pay companies, and raised paying starting wages by $0.50...
        I even asked the BLS, about a chart of min wage based on State min wage..rather then federal. They are looking into it.

        Describe slave labor, and compare that with min wages. Then go back to the Old Coal miner days and compare that also..
        (IT SUCKS)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 5:54pm

      Re:

      There once was an out of the blue
      Who hated the process of due
      Each patent he'd made
      Was DMCAed
      And shoved up his ass with a screw

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 12:25pm

    Someday when the aliens finally visit earth, they will find me tending a garden in the middle of a dead world, still smoking from the war.

    What happened here?

    IP was their greatest asset.

    Oh no. We thought they had evolved enough to avoid this fate.

    No one ever said the hairless apes were bright, the awarded IP control over how to put peanut butter & jelly on bread to multiple people.

    You need a ride somewhere?

    Nah I'm waiting for the next species to evolve & see if they decide imaginary things trump life itself. I'm immortal I have time, come visit again in a while. I'll be here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 12:25pm

    The author seems to view references to IP quite narrowly. A significant concern that has repeatedly been stated by US trade reps is the mandatory transfer of technical information as a condition of pursuing business in China.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 2:38pm

      Re:

      The author seems to view references to IP quite narrowly. A significant concern that has repeatedly been stated by US trade reps is the mandatory transfer of technical information as a condition of pursuing business in China.

      I'm not sure what this statement says that disagrees with anything I wrote, other than to reinforce the fact that China is leveraging the US's obsession with "IP" against the US.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 1:01pm

    Only afew things to do...

    So, how to get passed this?
    Go to World wide sharing?
    Quit charging for Little things and forcing cellphones to Cost 10 times the parts prices??
    SUGGEST, that any USA corp that deals with china Demand that the wages paid in China are commensurate and equal to USA Min wage??(poor fools)
    China take all their money and start buying up Wold wide IP products... then Charge the world for using it Themselves?? and all excess prices from IP are given to the Gov.??(LOVE THIS ONE)
    CREATE A NEW SYSTEM, for world wide IP(God no, the corps are waiting for this)

    there is a interesting thing about IP. that as an individual you can make/build anything you wish with NO consequence.. I would love to make a company where I can do 99% of the work and get the individual to come in and do the 1% to make Anything they wanted, at a FAIR price, and no IP costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    any moose cow word, 30 May 2019 @ 1:45pm

    If IP was truly as invaluable as companies claim, they'd keep their manufacturing close to home where they can maintain the upmost control over it. Instead, they keep sending it to lowest bid manufacturers in countries that don't care about their IP. They want cheap labor and tight IP control, but they can't have their cake and eat it too. After decades of offshoring, it's clear that they value cheap labor FAR more than their IP. Apparently it's worth less to them than the paper a sweatshop laborer's pay stub is printed on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 2:30pm

    China does not have an open market,
    one example all games have to go through a ratings board before being released in china ,
    Theres 2 big game companys in china which have a large share of the market , to release a big online multiplayer game in china western companys have to
    team up with a chinese game company to get it approved .
    The american obsession with patents mean one company can get certain
    esssential
    patents and make it impossible for other companys it compete or offer
    products to the consumer .
    Most graphics cards for pcs or consoles are made by nvidia or
    amd .
    Many chinese companys are supported by large government contracts
    and the government owns shares in many private companys .
    Maybe america will wake up one day and realise that more
    patents are not neccessarily good for the consumer
    they can be used as a barrier to stop or slow competition in the free market .
    Due to american drug patents some drugs are 100 times more expensive in america
    than in spain or italy.
    Look at apple ,if a startup develops new apps or tech in regard to mutimedia ,music production software apple just buys them to
    prevent future competition in the market.
    China has millions of engineers they can afford to have 1000,s of them
    just working on filing patents for software or other devices
    to keep foreign companys at a disadvantage if they try to enter
    the chinese market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 1 Jun 2019 @ 12:47pm

      Re:

      Explain open market..
      Do you mean that anyone can sell anything??
      They dont even do that in the USA...if you know your past.
      Release of software games in other nations used to be 10-20 to 1...in the EU and China/japan..Tons of stuff released in other nations you COULD NOT get in the USA.. lots of Console games made it for HOME/Country use and never got here..
      And Why we had to get Blackmarket hijacked version in the USA..
      This goes for Music also..records that were not distributed in the USA from the EU..and forget comparing OUR music to other nations, we couldnt get Most anything from other countries..

      Even NOW there are products in china that are NOT federally restricted, but the corps make the restriction, that WE CANT GET IT..
      Did you read about Costco, and that Watch(EU- germany) they were selling UNDER USA pricing, Yes the USA has its OWN special prices..
      open market and free market dont have any REAL meaning..not inthe USA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2019 @ 7:11am

    The U. S. : Hoist by it's own petard

    For decades, the U. S. has used patents, copyright and trademarks as an anti-competitive, anti-individual weapon. Both political parties have benefited, the Republicans from industry money, the Democrats from Hollywood, et-al, money. Now, China has seen graphically how useful such a weapon is, therefore, why should not China benefit itself?

    This isn't a Trump thing, Obama, the Bushes, Clinton were all part of the same debacle. That it hits under Trump is coincidence. The trade war isn't, it is merely a trade spat as part of negotiations (read credible sources on the history of trade).

    Nope, the U. S. is being hoist by it's own petard, deservedly. The solution of course is to enact substantial reductions in the length, scope and terms of copyright, patents and trademarks. Such a solution would require the wholesale rejection of most (perhaps all) Democrat and Republican lawmakers. As the general population won't do this, then the populace deserves what it gets also.

    For those of us who can see where the do-do lies, well, we're just SOL.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 31 May 2019 @ 2:25pm

    No, we just need wipe out the very concept intellectual property entirely. It's nothing more than a few using the work of the many that came before and claiming it all as their own. Everything is public domain because that's where everything comes from. Copyright and patent are just the tools of thieves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Boba Fat (profile), 3 Jun 2019 @ 2:31pm

    Innovation in China happens completely differently from the US

    Andrew "bunnie" Huang gave an excellent 20-minute talk describing the differences here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S39fhrGjr4U

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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