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Bohai Rim acts to protect intellectual property
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Samson Yu 


Now second only to the Pearl and Yangtze River Deltas as the most economically active and dynamic regions in China, the Bohai Rim, with Beijing and Tianjin as its core, has been accelerating its growth.


Experts say that by 2010 the Bohai Rim could become the most economically influential area in China or even in Northeast Asia.


The region is already an important base for raw materials and heavy manufacturing. Along with its solid industrial foundation, it also has the most concentrated foreign investment in North China.


The Tianjin Binhai New Area now has a multi-level science and technology development system that also trains new talent and is home to large-scale enterprises.


There are 42 national and municipal science and technology research institutes, 50 large enterprise research and development centers and 44 postdoctoral workstations.


According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the competitiveness of Tianjin in science and technology ranked No 4 on the mainland from 2004 to 2006.


During that same period, the competitiveness of Beijing in science and technology ranked No 1 in China. Better communication between Beijing and Tianjin has increased interaction between the two cities.


Tianjin and Binhai make up a traditional industrial base for North China and the Bohai Rim. The GDP of the new district of Tianjin Binhai in 2006 reached 196 billion yuan, accounting for 45 percent of the city as a whole. Its industries include digital information, petroleum exploration and processing, metallurgy, automobile and equipment manufacturing, aircraft assembly, food processing and bio-pharmaceuticals.


These industries have strengthened into an established hi-tech industrial group. The area's IT industry ranks among the top in China, and its petroleum casing pipe output is among the top four globally, with more than 1,000 enterprises providing the product.


In May, the five municipalities and provinces in Bohai Rim - Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Liaoning - signed a Bohai Rim Intellectual Property (IP) Protection Cooperation Agreement in Tianjin. The intellectual property offices of the areas are undertaking joint administrative legal and anti-infringement measures.


In IP-related disputes among enterprises from home and abroad in the past several years, cases in telecommunications and IT rank at top. Some Chinese telecommunication enterprises have realized the function and value of intellectual property and raised intellectual property protection to the level of enterprise strategy.


But most domestic companies lag foreign enterprises. Up to 2005, the number of patent applications filed by transnational companies in China reached more than 30 percent of the total, including almost 40 percent of invention patents.


In hi-tech industries, patent applications filed by transnational companies reached 70 percent of the total with companies mapping patent strategies well before entering China to collect licensing royalties. Many domestic enterprises fell into "patent traps", an obstacle to the development and creation of technology by domestic enterprises.


According to statistics, almost 99 percent of Chinese enterprises have never filed patent applications.


The Chinese Patent Protection Association analyzed the patent application situation of eight representative transnational companies in China in the fields of pharmaceutical, automobile, telecommunications and home appliances, including Pfizer, Volkswagen, Nokia, Motorola, IBM, Thomson, Philips and Sony.


The results show patent applications filed by the companies have increased 30 percent annually in China on average since the 1990s.


From 1985 to 2003, the total patent applications filed by the eight companies reached 20,350 and growth in the new technology field was even more remarkable.


For example, Sony filed 11 patent applications in 1990 in China, followed by 1,018 in 2001.


Under such circumstances, action in the Bohai Rim is needed to promote intellectual property. Governments should encourage and reward enterprises that file patent applications to support research and development and to help establish their IP systems.


They should also provide favorable tax policies to elite IP agencies to encourage and support more professionalism. In addition, IP-related seminars, symposiums and training activities should be organized for enterprises to help popularize IP-related knowledge.


This year is China's Intellectual Property Year, which is a perfect chance for establishing concepts and a culture to encourage and respect intellectual property in society. Efforts are being made through promotions, education, training and other channels to improve the level of implementation of IP systems.


Last year, the State Intellectual Property Office received around 573,000 patent applications, an increase of 20.3 percent. The number of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications reached 3,910, which ranked No 8 in the world.


At the same time Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong, Liaoning, Tianjin, Hubei and Sichuan became the top areas with the most invention patents granted.


Shenzhen ranked No.2 in patent applications among all cities in China, ranked No.1 in invention patent applications with an annual increase of 75.3 percent and ranked No 1 in PCT applications.


In all three types of patent applications, last year's increase was stable, especially for invention patents. The increase of domestic invention patent applications is remarkably higher than foreign invention patent applications. The rate of increase for service patent applications is higher than non-service patent applications. Enterprises have become the major applicants for the three types of domestic service patent applications.


The author Samson Yu is a principal at Kangxin Partners and a patent attorney, as well as a registered US patent agent.


(China Daily December 25, 2007)


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