China and IP: What is the long-term plan?
An ongoing conversation between Sidney Rittenberg, Founder, Rittenberg Associates; and Mark Anderson, CEO, Strategic News Service
Mark: What’s the history of IP in China?
Sidney: The viewpoint of political people in China on IP is undergoing a huge change. Chinese were kept down by British, Russians, French, Germans for so long that they at first felt justified in stealing IP. Now, China is at a nodal point. With its economic growth, they now see the protection of IPR as essential to their own interests. So they’ve set up a central IPR commission and appointed the most powerful premiere as its head, who gets along best with foreign business. He has said privately that, any business the government runs is going to be run poorly.
Chinese are fighting tooth and nail against shutting down counterfeiters because that’s where so much of their income comes from.
1. Shut down tvs of railroad stations in china because they were using counterfeit DVDs.
2. One major chinese company is suing another over IP.
3. Plan to enforce law on the books about counterfeit infringement with punishment of up to 10 years in jail and up to $100,000 fine.
This doesn’t mean foreign IP is now safe in China, but the top guys are starting to pay attention to protect their own IP.
Mark: Skeptical about whether this will really change the IP scene in China. How fast and how widely this will change needs to be observed over time.
Sidney: Believes that China and the US must work together toward climate change. How to proceed? Create an alliance of Chinese-American commerce, where Chinese can invest in American start-ups, but they must guarantee US IP rights.
Mark: Discouraged by jockeying for leadership, getting in the way of climate change progress. There is an opportunity for China to take leadership on working together for climate change. “Instead of trying to short-sheet the other guy’s bed, let’s have mutual standards for wind”
Sidney: “At this stage they really aren’t interested in domination. They aren’t out to be number 1” In copenhagen, everyone was on the defense, worried about who was responsible for fouling up the environment. “Conflict is not an option. If conflict is not an option, then the only alternative is to learn to work together. Do we do this faster or slower?”
Mark: This brings us back to IP. Anyone who started out as a hunter-gatherer is a creator of IP. IP is the protection of the creative act. . . It isn’t just about bucks. It really is about the health of the civilization.”
Wen has been doing some very interesting things over there. What’s going on with that guy?
Sidney: Saw Wen as a student at school at that time. Has always been the most outspoken about Deomocratic reform and is about to leave office, but nothing he’s said has departed from official Chinese policy. Two debates among leadership. 1. Some, including Hu Jin Tao, feel that progress in political reform should be left for the next team to do, to provide them with prestige. 2. Like Groucho Marx, Whatever it is, we’re against it.
IP progress will be slow and steady. We must ensure that they’re talking to the right people, and that their tech is structured and protected by IP itself.