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Special Counsel to U.S. Patent and Trademark China Office Discusses China's Intellectual Property Pursuits

March 07, 2013

Empirical data about China's intellectual property initiatives dispels western misconceptions that China is disinterested in intellectual property innovations, Mark Cohen, senior counsel for the China division of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, told students during his presentation at the law school on March 7.

Despite common western views that China is disinterested in increasing domestic patent filings and enforcing intellectual property laws, China has seen enormous growth in this area in the past few years, Cohen said.  The increased activity comes from government sponsored initiatives, Cohen explained.  The Chinese government has recognized that, to be competitive in a global market which is increasingly dictated by technological innovation, homegrown invention is a necessity, he said.  China's government sees increased patent filings as a way to encourage intellectual property pursuits, Cohen added.

Cohen acknowledged, however, that there is a disparity between the number of patents filed by Chinese citizens versus the number of patents filed by foreign persons or entities.  97.1% of all patents and 85% of all trademarks are filed by Chinese, Cohen said.  There is quite simply a lack of foreign interest, Cohen claimed. 

Cohen also explained that Chinese intellectual property courts see very little foreign litigation. Only 2.2% of Chinese intellectual property cases involve foreign entities, Cohen said. Despite a relatively robust and sophisticated intellectual property judiciary in China, "foreigners are just not using the courts," Cohen said. 

China still has a lot of work to do before foreigners will feel secure filing patents there, Cohen said.  However, western views that China is not interested fortifying its intellectual property pursuits, are simply unfair, Cohen argued. China faces an enormous undertaking and one that will involve not only the development of a robust system but also a reliable enforcement process, something that is quite a challenge under China's government regulated economy, Cohen added.  Regardless, progress in this area has great potential to improve trade relations between U.S. and China in the future, Cohen concluded. 

The American Constitution Society sponsored the event.