The European Chamber serves European enterprises as their representative by mainly providing communication and lobbying channels for political and business circles in both Europe and China. It keeps close attention and reports on China's market environment and monitors China's compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international commitments which have an impact on doing business in China.
The European Chamber puts special work groups in charge of the specific affairs on IP issues, as IP issues have always been of core concern of EUCCC and topics arousing continuous discussions.
As a Foreign Chamber of Commerce recognized by the European Commission and the Chinese authorities, how does the European Chamber carry out its daily work on IP affairs? What kind of IP issues does it care most about? What is its opinion on IPR protection and the relevant policies of the Chinese administrative agencies? Readers can find the answers to all of the above questions in the following interview recorded with Ioana Kraft, General Manager of the Shanghai Chapter of the EUCCC.
China IP: Since its establishment in 2000, the European Chamber has become a very active non-government organization. How does it function?
Ioana Kraft: The European Chamber is structured around industry specific interests and so called horizontal Working Groups (WG). These WGs meet regularly and discuss issues of common concern for a certain industry or for the horizontal WG issues that are of concern for different companies, regardless of the industry they are operating in, such as IPR. The WGs formulate their main recommendations for improvements of the operating environment for foreign companies in China in a yearly Position Paper that is presented to and discussed with the Chinese Government and different European stakeholders. The WGs also comment on draft laws and regulations.
China IP: In addition to the EU enterprises in China, does the European Chamber allow in enterprise members from other countries, say Chinese enterprises?
Ioana Kraft: The European Chamber also accepts member companies that are not headquartered in an EU Member State but have significant interests in Europe. These companies, however, are Associate Members with no voting rights at the annual general meeting. Chinese regulations do not allow Chinese companies to join foreign business associations.
China IP: What service and information does the European Chamber provide to its members?
Ioana Kraft: European Chamber members have free access to the Working Groups and can join members-only events and general events at a discounted price. They have, through the Chamber, access to the highest ranking decision makers in the Chinese and European Governments.
China IP: What are the specific functions and routines of the IP department of the European Chamber?
Ioana Kraft: The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Working Group consists of over 100 European companies engaged in investment, research and development, and the production and distribution of high-end and consumer products. Given the diversity of the fields European companies operate in China, the topics discussed touch upon all areas of IP protections.
China IP: When cooperating with Chinese officials of different agencies, what is your feeling about their working attitude and their awareness on IP affairs?
Ioana Kraft: Over the last 10 years, the IPR Working Group has witnessed China's efforts to curb the dramatic increase of IPR violations that affect its economic order, its innovative capacity and the rights of its consumers. We have seen positive developments as well with regards to the attitude of officials and their knowledge of IP. However, we would appreciate it if raising awareness could be a more continuous effort and not only covered by timely limited campaigns.
China IP: Many international enterprises in China, including European enterprises, find local IP protection a troublesome problem. What's your opinion on this subject?
Ioana Kraft: Despite great achievements in IPR protection during these 10 years as mentioned above, IPR protection is still ranked by our members as one of the top 3 obstacles to doing business in China.
China IP: Do the members have any expectations on the Chinese government to offer them some preferential policies? Do you have any suggestions on the revision of the IP laws?
Ioana Kraft: As in other areas, we do not seek preferential policies but simply equal treatment. We hear from Chinese leaders repeatedly that policies that aim to restrict foreign competition in certain areas in order to enhance indigenous innovation will not be enacted. We hope that this will be implemented not only at the national but also at local levels. Such forms of intervention can only have a counterproductive effect on the development of the innovation capacity of Chinese players.
IP issues in general are the same for all companies, foreign or domestic. The IPR WG has made a number of recommendations and continues monitoring and giving feed back into the development on the IP regulatory system. Concrete recommendations that have repeatedly been made by the European Chamber include but are not limited to the following needs: • Abolish excessive legalization and notarization requirements for foreign litigants; • Revise the calculation method of the criminal threshold; • The need to coordinate administrative and PSB enforcement work; • Clearly establish that flagrantly copying the shape of a product is an act of unfair competition; • Strengthen the fight against counterfeiting on the Internet; • Avoid arbitrary interventions based on public interest against private rights and private right holders.
We also see and urgently need to encourage quality over quantity of IP rights; more specifically the registration of intellectual property rights should be easily accessible and the creation of IP rights encouraged. But, at the same time the quality of rights should be guarded by preventing misappropriation of foreign trademarks and registration of low-quality patents. We understand that SIPO is in the process of taking steps to ensure patent quality and we look forward to the results.
China IP: Some Chinese entrepreneurs hold the viewpoint that the Chinese government attaches greater importance to IP protection of foreign enterprises. What are your views on that?
Ioana Kraft: As mentioned above most IPR issues are the same for all companies whether foreign or domestic. An environment with better IP protection will benefit all companies acting on the Chinese market.
China IP: What are your plans for proposals to the 12th Five-Year Plan? What issues will be of core concern in your next submission to the NDRC?
Ioana Kraft: In our submission to NDRC we have reiterated the points raised above that we see as priorities in ensuring a strong IP protection system and an environment in which innovation can thrive and the rights of inventors are protected and in which consumers can enjoy the benefit of new and safe products.
China IP: Last but not least, would you please share with us your experiences, especially the most interesting and impressive ones, on your work and life in China?
Ioana Kraft: China is an exciting country to live and work in. In the 8 years I have been here the country has been developing at a tremendous speed and it continues to do so. Something interesting happens every day!
(Translated By Athena Hou)