There continue to be various thrusts and feints in these early days of the Trump administration on Chinese IP related matters. Here’s a quick rundown.
Tim Trainer, a friend and former colleague, who is also the President of Global IP Strategy Ctr, P.C. & Galaxy Systems, Inc. has drawn attention to several China IP-related developments including a Trump executive order that involved IP theft, a bill introduced by Congressman Steve King of Iowa that targets China’s theft of intellectual property (February 14, 2017), and the effect of TPP withdrawal on China’s free trade agenda.
The Executive Order notes the following:
It shall be the policy of the executive branch to:
(a) strengthen enforcement of Federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security and that are related to, for example:
(ii) corruption, cybercrime, fraud, financial crimes, and intellectual-property theft . . . .
This order from February 9 clearly puts IP theft on the radar. While China is not singled out by name, it is worth reflecting that the term “theft” appears 7 times in the text of Dr. Peter Navarro’s book Death By China. Of these seven times, “intellectual property theft” appears twice, and technology theft appears three times. The term “intellectual property theft” is specifically indexed. Navarro, of course, is a leading advisor to the President on trade policy.
Continuing the theme of IP theft, Congressman King’s bill would, according to Trainer “require the imposition of duties on Chinese origin goods in an amount equal to the estimated losses from IPR violations suffered by US companies if enacted into law.” This early stage bill is found here
Regarding TPP withdrawal and its effect on IP and China China’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreements, a recent Congressional Research Service report has noted that the RCEP agreements are “unlikely to include commitments as strong on issues from intellectual property rights to labor and environmental protections”. As I have previously noted, “China’s FTA experience has thus far focused on a limited range of issues, most of which are not ‘core’ IP.”
Apart from Tim Trainer’s blog, the media has also reported extensively recently on several trademark decisions in China in President Trump’s favor. However, China’s trademark examination standards contain provisions that prohibit use of the names of political leaders. Moreover, unlike most other presidents, Trump was not a political leader until he was elected president. The Chinese trademark examination standards prohibit trademarks that hurt social morality or have other ill political effects. Amongst the enumerated bad political effects are trademarks that are identical or similar to a country, region or international organization’s leader’s name.
Postscript February 20, 2017:
While I have no opinion on the merits of any case, I hasten to note that the great grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, Tweed Roosevelt, might have an opinion on whether political officials should be granted trademarks. His company, Roosevelt, Tse and Company, owns several trademarks, many of which involve his eponymous restaurant in Shanghai, and some of which include the family crest (see below). He also seems to have been the victim of some individuals filing using the family name.
Living political leaders have also had their names misused. Three trademarks applications with the name of Barack Obama in 2008 by a company in Wuhan, China were refused registration by 2010. There are several trademarks and trademark applications of varying status with the name Merkel. A quick database search also showed up 7 applications with the Reagan name in English, one granted as recently as 2015 (Registration Number: 13981276) (for electrical goods). There is one registration for Fidel Castro for use on travel bags, filed by a natural person in Hebei 于锁群 (6792546). Did Fidel authorize this?
Of course, trademarks are not only the names of people. Several marks “In God We Trust” have been refused by the Chinese Trademark Office. One is still pending (21508789). It was filed by a company from Zhejiang.
A recent Washington Post article, noted that China is a country where “faking foreign brands has long been a profitable business practice.” The article refers back to the Qiaodan case as one important milestone in changing practices. As any reader of this blog knows, there have been several important steps in recent years to address abusive trademark practices.