IPR Protection for Innovation

The recent increase in intellectual property rights cases is a significant marker for the developmental trajectory of China. Intellectual property rights may be both beneficial and detrimental to a state depending on its level of economic development, and clearly, China is in transition. Therefore, it is inevitable that a degree of tension will exist between those who advocate a more stringent approach to protecting intellectual property rights and those who desire a softer, incremental approach.

States lacking research and development intensity may benefit from intellectual property rights regimes that promote the dissemination and utilization of knowledge without significant repercussions. Furthermore, it is clear that significant pockets of the population rely on the production and trade of unlicensed and imitation goods for employment.

However, as China undergoes industrial upgrading, it will become increasingly reliant on protecting intellectual property rights to develop and protect its competitive edge. In this sense, intellectual property rights as a driver of knowledge dissemination must give way to intellectual property rights as a driver and protector of innovation. This becomes evident when we consider China's push to achieve two million annual patent filings by 2015. Stricter protection of intellectual property rights will encourage domestically targeted research and development.

So while the iPhone may remain out of reach for the average Chinese consumer, credible domestic alternatives targeting unique, Chinese needs may emerge as more local firms engage in research and development. Increased trademark protection will effectively root out substandard imitations including inferior foodstuffs and shoddy appliances. Accordingly, Chinese consumers will be able to put more faith in homegrown products.

What is clear is that at this juncture, China must seek to balance both the need for knowledge dissemination and the need for innovation protection. However, as China further transitions from "developing" to "developed", the need for the stringent protection of intellectual property rights will increase.

(Source: China Daily)