In mid-March, the fourth plenary session of the 11th National People’s Congress approved the People’s Republic of China’s 12th five-year plan. The plan emphasizes innovation as a source of future economic growth and a hoped-for move up the economic value chain.

Premier Wen Jiabao said two indexes were more important than gross domestic product: education funding as a proportion of GDP, and the amount of investment in research and development.

CBLJ 1104Research, innovation and the protection of intellectual property go hand in hand. Whatever the attractions of a country’s cheap labour and potential market, innovators will stay away if they fear their products and technology will be stolen and copied. They will keep an even greater distance if they aren’t confident of official and judicial support.

Also in March, the Royal Society – the United Kingdom’s national academy of science – published a study predicting that China could overtake the US in its volume of scientific output as early as 2013. The report’s analysis of published research – one of the benchmarks of scientific output – called the rise of Chinese science “especially striking”.

Investment in research and development in China has reportedly grown by 20% per year since 1999, reaching an annual total of over US$100 billion.

So isn’t it time for China to get serious about the protection of IP?

China Business Law Journal is, once again, pleased to be an official media partner of the annual meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA). INTA is probably the biggest event in the global IP calendar. This year, the meeting will be in San Francisco in May.

To coincide with the INTA meeting, we are pleased to present a special report on the challenges facing IP owners in China, and Chinese IP owners overseas (see IP comes under the spotlight as China strives for innovation). Lawyers tell us of clients who don’t bother enforcing their IP rights in China, as the cost of doing so outweighs the benefit. Others report “absurd” decisions by the authorities in IP cases.

But several legal developments have occurred over the past year, most of which seem to be moves in the right direction. There are new rules on trials involving trademark infringement; new rules on patents, issued by the State Intellectual Property Office; and a possible trend towards the criminal prosecution of IP infringements, to name but three.

China Business Law Journal hopes and expects that China’s new emphasis on innovation will be matched by continued improvements in IP protection and enforcement. For such hopes to be realized would benefit Chinese and non-Chinese innovators alike.