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China provides international companies strong IP protection

A visitor inquires about IP protection at the China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing on Sept 8, 2020. [Photo by Yang Yang/chinadaily.com.cn]
China has taken strong measures to protect trade secrets and other types of intellectual property rights for international companies doing business in China.

Trade secrets is one of the most difficult types of intellectual property to protect, as it is hard to obtain evidence and needs rights holders to do a lot of homework to meet requirements of the Anti-Unfair Competition Law.

To better protect the interests of rights holders, China amended the Anti-Unfair Competition Law to move the burden of proof from rights holders to infringers, said Zhang Yonghua, a partner at Global Law Office.
Zhang Yonghua, partner of Global Law Office, delivers a speech at the China National Convention Center during the China International Fair for Trade in Services on Sept 7, 2020. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
China has also increased deterrence of the law to prevent such infringements from happening as much as possible by increasing statutory compensation and introducing punitive compensation mechanisms, Zhang said.

China's improving legal environment in IP protection legislation, justice and administration has provided strong guarantees and confidence for international investors eyeing the Chinese market.

Since China established the intellectual property protection system, the country has continuously improved protection of intellectual property rights for innovative entities, including patent protection for foreign companies, and made remarkable achievements, said Long Chuanhong, deputy head and patent attorney of the CCPIT Patent and Trademark Law Office.

It is clearly stated in the Foreign Investment Law, passed in March 2019, that intellectual property rights of foreign investors and foreign-invested enterprises are protected, legitimate rights and interests of intellectual property rights holders are protected, and for infringements of intellectual property rights, legal liabilities shall be pursued strictly in accordance with the law.

The National Intellectual Property Administration and foreign intellectual property offices have adopted the Patent Prosecution Highway project to speed up the examination pace of patent applications submitted by foreign applicants and facilitate foreign companies to obtain patents in China as soon as possible, Long said.
US auto company Tesla sets a very good example for foreign companies whose IP rights are well protected in China. Tesla has currently applied for 266 patents in China, including 122 invention patent applications, 67 granted, 27 utility model applications and 50 design applications, according to Long.

Apart from Tesla, a lot of international companies who have been operating in China for many years, have obtained a large amount of IP rights. For example, Exxon Mobil Corporation has obtained 1,683 invention patents accumulatively in China, Long said, emphasizing China provides equal IP protection for domestic and foreign companies.

Foreign companies can easily apply for patents and trademarks during the COVID-19 pandemic since applicants can submit applications and communicate with examiners electronically and without any physical contact.

In addition, through WIPO's "Priority Document Digital Access Service", China National Intellectual Property Administration can exchange priority documents electronically with other Intellectual Property Offices through the same platform and foreign applicants don't need to request for a priority document from one Office and submit it to another Office, Long said.

Moreover, some big e-commerce platforms have also established their own IP protection platforms, including the Alibaba intellectual property rights protection platform, which makes it more convenient for rights holders to stop IP infringement.

The China International Fair for Trade in Services 2020, running from Sept 4-9, has played an effective role in promoting stable development of foreign trade and foreign investment. IP professionals can use their knowledge to maximize the value of foreign companies' intellectual property assets, Long said.