Japan, China seek common IP ground (Japan Times 08.7.1)

The Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA) has been promoting exchanges with its counterpart in China, which has been busy putting into place an intellectual property (IP) system comparable to those in the West as the Chinese economy continues to grow at a tremendous pace.

Some 100 executives from JIPA-member companies have visited Beijing and Shanghai in recent years to exchange views about IP and related matters with their Chinese counterparts, including officials concerned with IP protection. They have discussed advanced technology development and transfer, and human resources development and information management in the hope that both sides can find more common ground to work on while deepening mutual understanding, a JIPA executive said.

The first Conference for Japan-China Corporate Cooperation, for instance, was held Feb. 28, 2006, in Shanghai, arranged jointly by the JIPA, and the Shanghai Intellectual Property Administration (SIPA) and the Shanghai Intellectual Property Service Center (SIPSC). It was attended by 16 people from Japanese companies, 10 from Chinese corporations, 12 people from the SIPA and 10 others from the SIPSC, who, divided into two groups, discussed the issue of trade secrets from practical and legal perspectives.

Although Japan and China were found to have almost the same management ideas, differences emerged in management methods obviously due to corporate cultural differences. Both sides agreed, however, that the enforcement of trade secrets is generally difficult as there is a high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and that it is thus good practice to clearly mark all confidential documents as such and have procedures in place to restrict access to trade secrets wherever possible.

Japan-China Corporate Co-operation meetings were similarly held in Beijing on March 11 and in Shanghai on March 14 this year, each with a few dozen people concerned with IP matters from both countries participating.

The JIPA is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, with a membership of over 1000 companies. It represents industries and users of the IP system, and is aiming to form a world IP user federation and encourage cost reductions for patent applications, and create substantial harmonization.

Because China has enormous power and potential, it could start applying for patents in large numbers abroad, and there is also the possibility of it eventually creating an original standard, which the JIPA is afraid of, some informed Japanese patent attorneys have said.

It appears that the Chinese awareness of IP rights protection has been heightening among industrialists and business people exposed to the outside world. The Chinese Knowledge and Industrial Property Rights Bureau expressed strong support and agreement with regard to the contents of the Japanese presentations, with some participants saying that the internal study sessions should be held at Chinese companies using the Japanese presentations as reference.

In China, revisions to the Patent Law are ongoing, and the Implementing Regulations, Examination Guidelines, Trademark Law and Law for Countering Unfair Competition are also scheduled to be revised. Revisions to these may impose an excessive burden on foreign applicants. Moreover, in some cases, these revisions may endanger the establishment of IP rights peculiar to Japan and put the brakes on companies' globalization.

The Chinese Patent Law, since its enactment in March 1984, was revised in September 1992 and again in August 2000. The draft of the third revision of the law is expected to be finalized this year. The draft of the third revision was released for comments in July 2006 by China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) .

The JIPA appreciates the opportunity to express its opinion on the draft revision of the law after carefully examining it. This draft revision is based on international harmonization, and is much welcomed from the perspective of applicants and rights holders outside China. However, the JIPA thinks there are still matters to be desired or revised, and has submitted its opinions in writing to the SIPO.

In recent years, there have been more and more cases of Japanese applicants filing applications in non=English-speaking countries, including China and South Korea. On these occasions, the need to translate application documents into the languages used in the relevant countries within a very limited time is a particular problem. It is difficult to make amendments based on the original Japanese applications even after translation errors have been discovered. Therefore many companies have difficulty in obtaining timely appropriate rights. For this reason, the JIPA has been taking various opportunities to request China and other countries to al-low applications to be filed in Japanese.

The Japan Times July 1.2008

[Update 2008-07-01 ]