Swimming in the big pool

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As more Chinese IP owners plunge into the international arena, knowledge of local protection and enforcement environments is crucial. George W Russell highlights the dangers to ensure you survive the dive

As China’s strategy of acquisitions and expansion abroad takes hold, companies with the right ideas and technologies are becoming more sophisticated, and also aggressive in litigation to protect their intellectual property (IP) rights. But many Chinese companies with big overseas ambition still lack awareness of their IP rights and responsibilities across borders.

“BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, China and India] have the special need of counselling in the area of transforming themselves from IP consumers to IP owners,” says John Olsen, a partner in the London office of US firm Edwards Wildman Palmer.

Chinese companies do assert and enforce their IP rights across the globe, and are doing so more than in the past. However, these cases do not occur nearly as frequently as the reverse in most foreign jurisdictions. One obstacle, says Jonathan Atkinson, a partner at Harrison Goddard Foote in Leeds, might be the price tag for legal services in developed markets. For companies wanting IP coverage in the UK and Europe “the costs may seem prohibitive”, he observes. “But in fact, relative to the protection they afford the company, they are cost effective.”

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