On December 8th, 2011, the first UK-China IP Symposium was held in London. At the Symposium, Baroness Wilcox, Minister for Intellectual Property of UK, announced the appointment of Tom Duke as UK's first IP attaché, who would began to work in China on December 14th, 2011. The purpose for posting an IP attaché in China, as Baroness Wilcox has said, is to "provide a physical presence for British businesses and help to build relations with intellectual property agencies in China."
Tom Duke is the former head of the IP Centre at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in South Korea. When he comes to China, he will work with the existing UKTI (United Kingdom Trade and Development) and FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) networks to improve the IP protection and enforcement environment for UK stakeholders in China. Mr. Duke is fluent in some Asian languages including Chinese and Korean, and he has a background in economics and Chinese industry analysis.
In order to better understand the working scope and the future plans of the first IP attaché of UK in China, the journalists of China IP
had an interview with Tom Duke at the British Embassy in Beijing.
China IP: As far as we know, the UK government has never sent any IP attaché abroad, so why China was chosen as the first country to send an IP attaché?
Mr. Duke: There are two aspects included in this question: one is why UK needs IP attachés overseas, the other is why we choose China as the first country. For the first aspect of the question, sending IP attachés across the whole world is part of UK's policy to create a network to implement of our IP strategy.
As to the reason for choosing China as the first country, there are actually many reasons for this decision, including the good relationship between SIPO and UK IPO and the requirements of some of our programs that need somebody to be physically here in China so that they may have full benefit for everybody.
China IP: Will the UK government send more IP attachés to other countries? Which country do you think will be the next one?
Mr. Duke: As the network will cover pretty much the whole world, the next country would probably be India.
China IP: Does this mean that the developing countries are more important for UK's IP strategy?
Mr. Duke: Not necessarily. We choose places where we could have the most value.
China IP: Have you been to China before? As far as we know, you have the background of China industry analysis. What was your impression on China's IP industry before you come to China?
Mr. Duke: I had lived in China for nearly four years before I came here again this time. And I find that there is not one single IP system that can be applied to all places of the country because China is such a big country. Things are quite varied in China: the local governments, the agencies, the IP enforcement and protection. People have very different ways to do things in different parts of the country. In this case, the major problem for China's IP industry might be IP enforcement and application, but it's almost the same everywhere in the world. Of course, a regular progress has been made if you compare the present to ten, twenty or even thirty years ago. And some people in China now are working very hard to move things in the right direction so that we may have better IP outcomes for everybody living and doing business in China. That will be mutually beneficial.
China IP: As the first IP attaché, could you briefly describe your work scope in China? And what are the major problems you need to solve in China?
Mr. Duke: Since it's a new post, the work scope will surely develop over time. On the one hand, I'll be working on the policy level, and try to make the existing bilateral programs even more successful. On the other hand, I'll be looking at the industry experiences: where things are going well; where things are not going so well. The two sides are related and complementary to each other.
I'll be bringing some expertise and experiences we have in UK to China so as to share information and working practices. I am keen to push this kind of technical exchanges, the global convergence of IP practices, which I believe can be beneficial for everybody.
China IP: Could you further explain what kind of expertise you'd like to bring to China?
Mr. Duke: In some areas, China may look at how other countries are dealing with particular problems. China might be interested to look at the IP systems in other countries as well. For the existing problems in China, they might not be only happening in China. Other countries probably have developed systems, techniques and policies to solve the problems. You look at other countries and you might find the way to solve your problems.
China also has some completely new areas of work in IP industry. Nowadays, new challenges are put forward by technologies and the internet. People in the world now are having a global life style. Therefore, bringing expertise is not about moving China through the same experience more quickly; it's about finding ways to tackle these new problems. That's why your magazine exists, and that's why I am here.
China IP: What about the enterprises? What problems do they expect the Chinese government to solve? And what are they suffering from when they are doing business in China?
Mr. Duke: Business people usually want results very quickly. They want to find ways to do business on a fair platform NOW. They are not interested in the longer-term development described by the government authorities. Enterprises are very keen on finding better ways and better mechanisms to enforce the IP they have. They have devoted lots of time and resources to develop innovative products or services. They want to find ways that they can fairly use their IP in China and other parts of the world. So the focus of the IP system is the enforcement side. For the enterprises, they don't have the confidence to use their IP all over China since China is a very big country and is very diversified in different places. My role is to help those who are assisting the companies on the frontline to develop some toolkits that they can use within the Chinese system. That has to be based on a good understanding of where China is and what policies China is using in order to make sure that people have the right information.
China IP: The EU also has an IP office in China. What's the relationship between the IP strategy of the EU and that of the UK IPO?
Mr. Duke: The UK IPO has its own bilateral relationships with its Chinese counterparts, but there are also a lot of very valuable engagements on the EU level as well. I work very closely with my counterparts in the EU delegation as well as other EU member states. The EU has some very effective programs working in China on IP such as the IPR2. When you talk about the European IP system, it has many layers: the EU level layer; and you also go down to the member states, which have different legal environments. So an EU program needs to support and needs the involvement of the EU member states. We have bilateral programs with China but we are also within the European context. We are contributing to the EU strategy with our friends to make sure that the strategy is a positive one.
China IP: As you have worked in UK, South Korea and China, could you summarize the major differences between the IP systems of the three countries?
Mr. Duke: Historically, China and Korea have some interesting comparisons. In the UK system, you have more emphasis on the judicial rulings. Comparatively, China and South Korea have more emphasis on the Supreme Court ruling. In fact, the three countries all have some unique parts of their own; however, they are all systems working towards the same end. It's like a toolkit: maybe in different places, your tools might have slightly different shapes or sizes, but they do the same thing in the end. They achieve the same goal.
China IP: Have you achieved any agreements with the Chinese government or do you have any programs at hand now?
Mr. Duke: It's a little bit early to share with you the individual programs. A recent great event has been the UK-China IP Symposium when my appointment was announced. To solve problems is cross-government and cross-industry, which means a two-way process, a kind of ad hoc exchange. I believe the Symposium in London is a great template and a great model for the future.
China IP: You have been working in Asia for a number of years. Why do you choose Asia for your career development? Is Asia a very special place to you?
Mr. Duke: I also ask myself this question a lot. I think I am very fortunate to meet many interesting people here. There is no part of the world that would be more exciting to be working in. Now it's such a great period in China, providing lots of opportunities for all the people in the world. It's exciting to be here. Every day is different.