The Importance of Transparent, Fair and Effective IP Protection – Ambassador Burns on World Intellectual Property Day
Each year on April 26, we celebrate World IP Day by recognizing the essential impact of intellectual property (IP) on the global economy, American businesses, and our scientists and innovators.
For decades, the protection of Intellectual Property Rights has been a key challenge for successive U.S. administrations in our relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Effective IP laws, together with transparent procedures, are necessary to provide a fair and predictable environment in which innovative and creative contributions, particularly in business, trade, and research, are recognized and protected. Despite legislative and structural changes by the PRC government aimed at addressing both protection and enforcement, our long-standing concerns about IP infringement remain widespread, especially as the pace of critical legal reforms has slowed in China.
China has also recently taken steps that decrease both the transparency and predictability of its IP legal system. For example, China is now publishing fewer case decisions and removing and censoring decisions it has previously published. Reducing access in this way undermines the confidence of rights holders in PRC IP laws and tribunals. Further, IP rights holders have raised concerns that the role that intellectual property plays in the economy of China has shifted. Rather than being a driver of market reforms, IP is increasingly politicized and used as a tool for achieving dominance and control in science and technology.
Without improvements to IP-related rules and regulations and commitments to fairness and transparency, China risks discouraging innovation, with global consequences. We hope the United States and China will continue to work towards greater progress in the IP field, with a focus on transparency, rule of law, and procedural fairness. It is critical that China continue to implement its commitments on IP and live up to these fundamental principles for the benefit of all.
With this year’s theme of Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity, we should also focus our attention on how IP rights can help improve women’s lives and expand the innovative and creative impact of women around the world. Greater participation by women in innovative and creative industries brings cultural, economic, and technological benefits to the world. To that end, in 2022, the United States launched Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE), an initiative that helps women entrepreneurs identify valuable intellectual property, attract funding, and build out their networks. Similarly, a high-level symposium on “Women Inventors, Scientists and Entrepreneurs in the New Era” was held in China last year to recognize the contribution of women innovators and increase support for future generations. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing was proud to host a discussion with three Chinese female innovators on women and innovation open to the public.
The legitimacy of the IP legal system depends not only upon the breadth and suitability of laws, but on fair, transparent and predictable implementation and enforcement. While U.S. right holders have welcomed some positive developments here, China should complete the full range of changes needed, and provide a level playing field for IP protection and enforcement. China’s action, or inaction, will have significant consequences not only for its women innovators, but for the global innovative ecosystem upon which we all depend.