Sino-British talks on IP rights
By Wang Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-09

Cooperation on Olympics, digital content and battles against infringement

Britain is studying intellectual property right (IPR) protection practices used during the 2008 Olympics as it ramps up for its own Games in London in 2012, a senior British IPR official said during a recent trip to China.

"We will be using the experience of China in the Beijing Olympics in our preparations for the London Olympics," John Alty, chief executive of the British Intellectual Property Office, told China Daily in a recent interview.

The British office discussed Olympics cooperation as well as IPR enforcement with the National Copyright Administration of China at a teleconference in January, Alty said.

He termed his two-day visit to Beijing last week "the first milestone in a journey for the UK and China working more closely on IPR issues".

"The objectives of the visit are more than being met," he said.

A meeting with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) discussed ways of improving efficiency and benefits of personnel exchanges, he said.

"Across the globe, there is a backlog of filings. It takes too long to grant a patent," Alty said. "This is holding back economic development."

China continued robust growth in patent filings last year with applications growing 24.1 percent to surpass 1 million.

Of them, international applications from China through Patent Cooperation Treaty rose nearly 56.3 percent to 12,337.

SIPO granted 815,000 patents last year, an increase of 40 percent over 2009.

Through Sino-British exchanges of information and personnel, patent offices have also increased understanding.

"We found that we are working very much to the same standards," Alty said.

If a company now wants a patent in China and Britain, the authorities in both countries don't have to do the same work twice, he added.

It is necessary for patent offices around the world to be able to use each other's work, he said.

'Feedback loop'

Alty said he also found out more about Chinese government IPR policies during his visit and heard concerns from British companies operating in the nation.

Britain is the largest EU investor in China, according to the chief executive.

"It is important for authorities, either in China or anywhere else, to be listening to what business is saying," Alty stressed.

Through what he termed a "feedback loop" solutions can be found, he added.

There are problems with digital businesses and copyright protection, but "not just in China", he said. "This is a worldwide challenge to find the right solutions."

"I don't think you solve problems overnight, but we are keen to see a positive trend, because we think that that is in China's interest too," Alty said. "It would then encourage confidence in the market."

"One of the messages from the Chinese side at the meeting was that we must develop a long-term mechanism (to fight IPR infringement)," he said.

Alty said he welcomes China's six-month crackdown on IPR infringement that started nationwide last November, suggesting that it can now be used to "create a long-term infrastructure to maintain and improve" the business environment.

As China's economy becomes more important each year, it is even more crucial for the nation to operate with good IPR policies and enforcement, Alty said.

"That way all companies, both Chinese and foreign, have the confidence to invest and innovate. "

Creative industries

Moving beyond simple imitation, China is improving its capacity for innovation, with rapid growth in its creative industries, a sector that is particularly strong in Britain, Alty noted.

Nearly 2 million people work in creative endeavors in Britain in fields ranging from art to the music industry.

Creative industries are now feeling the impacts of digital technology - but that "provides opportunities not just threats", he noted.

A good legal framework is needed that balances the needs of consumers and users as well as those of IPR owners, providing a solid foundation for the sector, he said.

He recalled he once told his children not to download illegal music from the Internet and they replied they did not have to because legitimate services are provided by online portals.

Online music in Britain is inexpensive and in some cases free because websites carry advertising to generate revenues, he said.

"We encourage meeting customer demands and we can't just say 'nobody can have music online'."

As has been demonstrated globally by music file sharing over the Internet, enforcement measures are often impractical against large numbers of users, which is why education and awareness are important, he said.

"It is quite important to make IPR interesting and fun," he stressed. "If you simply send out messages that tell people what to do - that doesn't always get attention."

He cited a British cartoon series and a popular game called Sprocket Rocket as examples of his office's efforts to promote IPR awareness in a more entertaining way.

If used in China, such practices would make an impact on larger segment of the population, he said.

China Daily

(China Daily 03/09/2011 page17)