04 February 2007

Preparing for the Coming Chinese Century

There is an organization in the USA quaintly called the "Project for the New American Century". According to its website it is

"dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle."
I surmise that that organization chose its name in the expectation (or, more likely, hope) that the USA will prolong the economic, scientific and military preeminence that it has enjoyed since the end of the 19th century into the next century. Well, maybe. But my money is on the next century being Chinese rather than American.

China whose GDP is already estimated to be 75% that of the USA when adjusted for purchasing power parity and whose nominal GDP is growing at a breakneck rate. Increasingly, it will be Beijing rather than Washington that calls the shots on trade and international security. As for science and technology the WIPO has noted in a recent press release a boom in patent filings in northeast Asia over the past 20 years with China becoming the 4th largest patent office in the world by the number of applications. Regardless of whether or not the rise of China and the relative decline of America is a good thing, it is a reality to which we had better get used.

On 14 Sep 2006 IPCEX and Liverpool Inventors Club held a very successful seminar on IPR in China at the Liverpool Office of Kirwans. Speakers included Dr Ron Jones of IP.com Inc., Wei Huang of VTZ International, Catherine Lo of Kirwans and yours truly. The audience included diplomats from the Chinese embassy in London as well as investors, entrepreneurs, patent agents, solicitors and many members of the Chinese community in Northern England. We followed up that success with talks by Wei and Ron in Leeds and Sheffield. On Tuesday, the Manchester Inventors Club will host its own seminar on China.

I have always done a bit of work involving China while I have been at the Bar. In the early days there were mainly contentious matters but, more recently, I have been asked increasingly frequently to review and even draft licences, distribution and manufacturing agreements. Up to now the work has been west to east but the likelihood is that China will become increasingly important as an exporter of technology and capital to this country. In anticipation of that trend we have published a brochure in Mandarin. We believe we are the first specialist intellectual property set in the UK to do that.

We have recently appointed Wei Huang to represent and market us in China. She has already visited Shanghai and Chongqing and made several contacts on our behalf in those cities. As well as representing us and several other UK lawyers in China Wei represents an important Chinese law firm in the UK. We have ambitious plans for the future including a website on IP law in English and Mandarin and a conference at one of the leading Chinese universities.

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