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Thursday Aug 25, 2011

Report From China and a Look at Our “China Team”

Guest blog by Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea
 
I just recently returned from a very interesting and extensive two-week trip to China, my first trip there as Deputy Director of the USPTO. I visited six cities: Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xiamen. 
 
Not only is China an important trading partner for the U.S., but also, in terms of intellectual property, its importance cannot be overstated.  U.S. IP right holders are increasingly seeking to protect and enforce their intellectual property there, and often find it challenging to do so.   In fact, China’s patent and trademark offices are among the largest in the world in terms of filings, and its intellectual property enforcement system is being increasingly utilized by U.S. right holders. Ensuring that the Chinese IP system works in an effective and efficient manner is essential to U.S. companies. That’s why the USPTO has an established “China team” consisting of seven attorneys in Alexandria and IP Attachés in Beijing and in Guangzhou, all with extensive knowledge and experience with China’s intellectual property system. Through the efforts of USPTO Director David Kappos and the China team, we have developed strong ties and relationships with China’s patent, trademark, copyright and IP enforcement offices. It is through these relationships that we hope to continue to work with the Chinese to seek improvements in their IP system for the benefit of U.S. companies.
 
My goals for this trip were to meet and speak with U.S. stakeholders in China about the challenges of patent enforcement in-country and develop recommendations; to promote and educate the Chinese inventor community on IP commercialization and technology transfer; and to promote bilateral cooperation with Chinese central-, provincial-, and municipal-level agencies responsible for IP administration and enforcement.
 
I arrived first in the capital with the USPTO delegation and, in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, we led a stakeholder roundtable to discuss patent enforcement issues.   The USPTO is leading an interagency initiative to address patent enforcement problems in China, including determining the steps the U.S. Government can take to improve the effectiveness of China’s patent enforcement regime. Last month, we held our first stakeholder meeting in Washington, D.C. We held similar roundtables in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xiamen, meeting with local rights holders. These discussions were very productive, producing much useful information that will be included in a report with recommendations for the future.
 
The USPTO also co-hosted an IP-commercialization and technology-transfer program with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA), and the Chinese Technology Exchange (CTEX). Expert speakers from the U.S. and Chinese governments, universities, and research institutions presented and debated the importance of intellectual property, and the role of technology transfer in developing inventions into commercially viable products in their respective countries. The seminar attracted attendees from academia, the inventor community, and private industry. The forum provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how the landmark Bayh-Dole legislation in the U.S. created the incentive for researchers at federal and university institutions to commercialize their inventions in the marketplace by allowing inventors to retain the rights to their inventions, enabling them to license their creations with interested parties.
 
I also was able to meet with my good friend and counterpart, Vice Commissioner Li of SIPO. We discussed our strong bilateral cooperation, and the work on the “Foundational Projects” at the IP5 forum (see my last guest blog). The USPTO and SIPO are close to reaching an agreement on a Patent Prosecution Highway pilot, our most advanced worksharing program, which will allow the USPTO and SIPO to utilize the work product of the other’s examiners, streamlining examination and reducing costs for our stakeholders.
 
I also met with Director General Xu Ruibiao of the China Trademark Office (CTMO). In June, the USPTO and the CTMO held a very successful seminar in Beijing which dealt with the issue of bad faith trademark filings. We discussed strengthening our bilateral cooperation with future programs, and visiting our office to learn about trademark operations.
 
Later, I met with the Shanghai IP Administration. While SIPO in Beijing handles the main function of patent examination, China has IP offices at the provincial and municipal levels to assist applicants in patent filing and the administrative enforcement of their patent rights. The Shanghai IP Administration is one of the largest and most active local IP offices. We discussed areas of future bilateral cooperation to strengthen the administration and enforcement of patent rights. I met with students of Jiliang University in Hangzhou and students of East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and confer with China’s next generation of leaders and consumers; they will play a critical role in promoting IP rights and helping to grow a sustainable economy for the future.
 
Later in the trip, I visited the southern cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xiamen, each a major economic center of China. I met with rights holders and Chinese officials, holding meetings with critical IP registration and enforcement agencies, including the Guangdong provincial branches of the IP Office, the High People’s Court, the Economic Crimes Investigation Division of the Public Security Bureau, and the General Administration of Customs. In the city of Shenzhen, we conferred with the municipal branches of the Procuratorate (China’s prosecution service), and the Public Security Bureau. Each of these offices plays an important role in the complex IP enforcement system to battle counterfeiting, piracy, and infringement. We reinforced our commitment to sustained, consistent enforcement of IP rights, and encouraged continued support for education and capacity building.
 
While this was my first visit to China as Deputy Director, I’m sure it won’t be my last. Dave Kappos and I both view our relationship with our counterparts in China as one of our priorities and I look forward to visiting again soon so that we can continue to work together to build a better global IP community.

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