Licensing: A Forthcoming Program and Some Historical Perspective

With recent antitrust investigations in China, as well as China’s design to have more market-oriented targets for IP, export growth in IP rights from China is slated to grow from 1.36 billion USD in 2013 to 8 billion USD in 2020, according to the Action Plan for the National IP Strategy.  Commercialization-related goals were also found in the Third Plenum, to increase IP utilization generally.

In this light, attached is the agenda for a forthcoming USPTO-SIPO program on licensing of intellectual property, which will take place April 15 in Beijing.  There is no fee for the program.  Seats are currenlty only available on a wait-list basis.   U.S. companies and their counsel can wait -ist for the program by contacting Ms. Liu Jia at the USPTO office in Beijing: jia.liu@trade.gov.

I also recently recovered from my own files an unpublished case on technology transfer from China to the United States, from over 10 years ago in the Eastern District of Texas.  The case involved a Chinese university professor that licensed his technology to a US company to collect revenue and litigate, as necessary.   I was an expert witness in that case, involving Infineon Technologies.  Although China’s tech transfer regime has since changed considerably, as I recall the case dealt with using US choice of law for the licensing of a Chinese-owned Chinese patent and US patent, including whether defects in Chinese ownership or regulatory approval for the license could be cured after the case was filed.

In a previous blog post, I noted that “choice of law in IP and technology transfer contracts is a “sleeper” issue – i.e., one that is too infrequently considered for all its strategic implications.  There may be situations where foreign law is preferred for a Chinese contract, or when Chinese law is preferred for a contract to be implemented overseas, or where choice of Chinese law brings some unhappy surprises.”  Although the choice of US law was ultimately sustained by the court, this decision demonstrated that there could be “unhappy surprises” in China’s then-existing over-regulation of technology contracts, including choosing United States law as a means to avoid these controls.

Since this case, China’s antitrust regime has interjected another level of uncertainty into licensing contracts for standards setting including by substituting Chinese law for a previously agreed choice of law.  .

Here’s a link to recent testimony I gave in an official capacity on licensing challenges in China. 

As always, this blog reflects my non-official, personal views.

The Back Story on the Third Plenum IPR Language

Former SIPO Commissioner Tian Lipu recently revealed the “legislative history” of the language in the Third Plenum regarding IP, as reflected by former Chief Judge Jiang Zhipei in his chinaiprlaw.cn blog (http://www.chinaiprlaw.cn/file/2014020731400.html).

The original language being discussed was that China would “Implement the National IP Strategy and Strengthen IP Protection.”(“实施知识产权战略,加强知识产权保护”).  This was, indeed the language circulated in August 2013, and did not reflect much change from prior years.  A proposed change in language at that time was “Deepen the National IP Strategy,  Strengthen the Practical Protection of IP.” (“深入实施知识产权战略,切实加强知识产权保护”).

Ultimately, the final language was “Strengthen the Utilization and Protection of IP, Investigate Establishing a Specialized IP Court” (“加 强知识产权的运用和保护,探索建立知识产权法院”).   In the words of former Commissioner Tian, the placement of “utilization” as the first priority was a new development. The language regarding specialized IP courts was inspired by the National IP Strategy (2008) which had originally taken up this issue, and promoted it to reduce local influence and improve national coordination.  However this new language on the courts, according to Tian, supports a next stage of concrete implementation of this proposal.

After the adoption of this proposal, Tian and SIPO were delighted with this language, as they had been concerned that the recent establishment of “too many” High and Intermediate IP tribunals would complicate matters and make it difficult to establish an IP court.  Now, according to Tian, development of a specialized IP court is a development direction for China as well as one that is increasingly recognized by other developing countries.

Commissioner Tian Lipu has made enormous contributions to the development of China’s IP and patent systems and has earned the respect and friendship of many IP officials throughout the globe. It now seems that even as he was preparing to retire, one of his visions for improvements to the IPR system is further down the road to success.