China's IP protection system works well, says U.S. professional

Updated 2017-11-06 11:31:57 Xinhua

China has a very good workable intellectual property (IP) protection system, which is different from the U.S. system, yet right and appropriate for China, a senior U.S. professional told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"The problem most Western brand owners have is not that the Chinese have a bad system, but that the brand owners often don't know how to make that system work," said William Mansfield, IP director for ABRO Industries, Inc, which is based in South Bend, Indiana and has been in business for 75 years.

The company makes non-electronic consumer goods like glue, tape, engine oil and things like that, with about half products manufactured in America and half manufactured in China, under the brand name ABRO.

Mansfield, who is familiar with both Chinese and U.S. markets after visiting China about 30 times, noted that like all government officials, Chinese anti-counterfeiting officials have very limited resources, but face unlimited requests for their help.

"ABRO goes directly to these officials in order to make our case for why they should expend some of their limited resources in protecting our brand as opposed to other things they could do," said Mansfield, talking about ABRO's successful experience of anti-counterfeiting activities in China.

After entering the Chinese market in 2008, ABRO started manufacturing more and more in China as well as selling more in China over the last five to seven years, and the company has even opened up its first overseas branch office in Beijing and hired Chinese employees.

RESPECTING LOCAL RULES

The importance of respecting local rules should not be neglected either, Mansfield said.

"As a brand owner, it's not their job to conform their system to mine, it's my job to learn and understand their system. If I want help there, I need to comply with their rules," he told Xinhua. "Our strong position in China comes from our focus on working with the Chinese as equals."

People also should show respect to differences in different nations. "I've been to 55 countries personally and we've done actions in probably 160. And in each place there's something a little different," he pointed out.

It is probably true that many brands have more counterfeit products in China than in some other countries, but it is only because that most things are made in China, he said.

"If most of everything was made on the moon, most of the counterfeits would be made on the moon, and we'd all be angry at the moon people," Mansfield added.

The most important thing is that Chinese officials strongly value the role that the law plays in keeping society well-functioning as they are aware of the importance of legality and the value of commerce, he said.

"Chinese officials more than any other officials I've dealt with understand the role that foreign commerce plays in their domestic prosperity and they are very serious about protecting them," he added.

CHINA'S IP PROTECTION EFFORTS

In recent years, the total number of patent law enforcement cases in China has maintained a rapid growth each year, indicating that the Chinese government has continuously stepped up its crackdown on various kinds of infringement.

Latest data from State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) show that in the first half of 2017, the national patent administrative law enforcement cases totaled 15,411, an increase of 23.3 percent from the same period a year ago.

In September 2017, "the Action Plan for Protecting Foreign Companies' Intellectual Property Rights" was jointly published by China's 12 departments, including the office of the National Leading Group on the Fight against IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting, SIPO and Public Safety Bureau, which is widely seen as the Chinese government's latest determination to continuously protect IP.

Meanwhile, according to Mansfield's observation, the Chinese system offers much better training and the judges are becoming more and more educated about it.

Back in 2014, at the tenth meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress, the Chinese government voted to establish special IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

The success of the IP courts in those test cities has encouraged the Chinese government to roll out additional similar courts in other cities. In early 2017, four additional specialized IP tribunals were established in Nanjing, Suzhou, Chengdu and Wuhan.

CHINA'S EFFORTS NEED TO BE RECOGNIZED

However, it seems that Chinese government has got "virtually no credit for their efforts," said Mansfield.

When testifying on behalf of ABRO before the Section 301 Committee at an International Trade Commission hearing in October, Mansfield represented the only U.S. company that opposed a so-called Section 301 investigation into China's alleged IP misappropriation launched by the U.S. trade representative.

"When we heard about this, we wanted to come to testify, because in that sort of hearing you tend to get a lot of people who have a problem to come out and talk. But what you don't get is all the people whose things are going well."

"I feel like somebody needs to go and say that truth as well, and I hope that will be considered in the course of writing the 301 report," said Mansfield.

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